It will probably not surprise you to learn that a Pew Internet Project study recently showed that 95 percent of teenagers between the ages of 12 and 17 use the Internet. The study also showed that over 75 percent of teens have a cell phone, almost half of them being smartphone owners. This means that most teens now have almost immediate access to the Internet, as well as all of the dangers that can come with it.
According to the Better Business Bureau, parents should take the time to teach their children how to be responsible digital citizens before allowing them to use the Internet unsupervised. Without some guidance, children can easily be led astray or can be lulled into giving up too much personal information about themselves.
Show Them a Basic Search
Start by showing your children how easy it is to track a person down with just minimal information. For example, in many cases, if you enter your name, city and state into Google, a map will be generated that can direct a person straight to your home. The information may also include ages and sexes of the people living in your household. Your children may not be aware of how easy it would be for a sexual predator to take their name and city off of a social media website and track them right to their doorsteps.
Don’t Put it in Writing or Post a Picture
Advise your children that words and pictures can come back to bite them in a myriad of ways. For example, show children how easy it is to cut and paste what they might think is a private message and send it to another person. Also explain to them how easy it is to get tricked into writing something about another friend and then have that message be passed onto that person.
You should warn your children that friends often come and go and that someone who may be a pal today may not be their BFF in the future. For example, ask them to think back a few years and name someone that was their friend in the past that they are no longer in touch with. What if they had given that person private information or sent them an embarrassing picture? That information is now in the hands of a person who could possibly use it against them.
It’s important to talk to your children about phishing. Phishing e-mails or other types of electronic solicitations often resemble real correspondence from legitimate companies or agencies, but are actually malicious attempts by criminals to get your children’s information. For example, your children may get an email that claims they can download a game for free, but first they must fill out certain information. Tell your child never to give out any personal information that they might have access to, no matter how tempting the offer may sound. If your child should fall for one of these scams, request a credit check on your child. You may also want to sign up for fraud protection services, such as those provided by Lifelock, since your children may have unfortunately opened themselves up to a lifetime of problems.
Don’t assume that if you post a picture on Snapchat, it will disappear for good. Even though pictures that pop up on this application are supposed to disappear once viewed, there are numerous ways these Snapchat pix and videos can be retrieved. According to Salon, for example, anyone who has the Dumpster app on their phone can retrieve Snapchat videos and view them again and again. In addition, a user could simply take a screen shot of a Snapchat photo.
Don Lopez is a programmer by day and teaches coding to disadvantaged youth at night.