5 ways to start the New Year right online

Protect your personal information and proactively manage your time online


If you feel that a large portion of your waking hours are spent in front of a screen, you’re not alone. Many Americans spend about seven hours a day looking at some type of a screen, and just over two hours of that is spent scrolling social media – or nearly 750 hours a year! The good news is that screen time stayed about the same in 2021 after it spiked in 2020 at the start of the pandemic.

The start of a new year is a good time to check your personal online information, as well as find some solutions to help keep your social media time in balance.

1. Make passwords safer and easier to manage

Experts recommend using a unique password for every login – which adds up to a lot of passwords to remember. If you’re still using duplicate passwords or jotting them down on sticky notes, it’s time to get a password manager.

With a password manager, the only thing you need to remember is a master password. The manager will automatically log you into your online accounts and is also handy to securely autofill forms and sync your data across devices and platforms. They can also store your credit card and banking information to make online payments easier.

Here are a few well-known password managers to consider:

LastPass and Dashlane both have free versions, while all of them feature premium paid plans with added features.

2. Double up on your protection

Two-factor authentication is gaining popularity as an extra layer of protection to secure online accounts. You must first verify your identity using your username and password. Then you’re required to enter a code sent by text message or email.

Some accounts, such as Facebook, allow you to select the second form of authentication to use, including an authenticator app. These apps generate time-based, one-use passwords that refresh every 30 seconds.

Before selecting an authenticator app it’s worth doing some homework because they can have some limitations:

3. Clear your cache and delete cookies

The new year is also a prime time to clear your web history and delete browser cookies. You’d be surprised how much personal data can be stored there. To find out how to clear your history on your phone, do a quick internet search on deleting history or cookies based on your phone type and the browser you use. It usually takes just a few taps to complete.

Take some time to check your browser privacy settings and consider using a search engine like Duck Duck Go, which limits the amount of data gathered about you online. Our Viasat Browser also features enhanced safety features with the added benefit of being optimized for satellite internet.

4. Check your privacy settings

Another element of your digital footprint you should check is the data collected by online accounts, particularly social media. Typical areas you have some control over in social media accounts include:

  • Profile details
  • General audience
  • Audience for a single piece of content
  • Photo tagging
  • Location sharing
  • Activity status

5. Keep your life in balance

Security is important, but so is your mental health: Too much time online can have negative effects. Now there are multiple ways you can track your usage and even limit your time on social media to help you find a better balance.

An increasing number of the platforms now allow you to restrict usage. For instance, both the Facebook and Instagram apps let you manage your activity. Be aware that they merely send a message when you’ve hit the limit and don’t block you from accessing the platform.

There are other apps designed to help you focus on your work and personal life by eliminating virtual distractions and limiting time on specific apps or websites. Some go as far as locking you out of your phone for a preset period to give you a forced break from screen time.

Some basic ones may be included with your phone:

More complex commercial tracking and blocking apps include:

  • Freedom
  • Flipd
  • Forest — provides a more light-hearted approach, but with real-world consequences

Make 2022 safe and productive

Maintaining your online privacy and ensuring that your social media time isn’t overwhelming you should be an ongoing goal, but now is a good time to take a deep dive to ensure that you’re starting the year off right.

For Viasat residential subscribers, learn how Viasat Shield and Shield Premium actively monitor and block suspicious activity online to help keep your private information private.

Patti Rutkin is a fierce advocate of the customer experience. As the marketing lead for Viasat’s US residential business, she is responsible for raising awareness about Viasat’s home internet service within the communities it serves.