Moral Low Ground


5 Essential Lessons to Teach Your Teen About Online Safety

(Photo: Morning Calm/Flickr Creative Commons)

(Photo: Morning Calm/Flickr Creative Commons)

The Internet and widespread connectivity options provide teens with educational, entertainment, and social opportunities at every turn. Unfortunately, it also brings dangers in the form of cyber bullies, predators, and identity theft. It’s almost impossible to monitor your teen’s Internet usage every minute of the day, so teaching your children important lessons about online safety is essential to keeping them safe when you don’t have a direct eye on them. Carnegie Mellon Cylab found that 10 percent of the children surveyed in their study were the victims of identity theft, with their social security numbers in use for tax registration, home purchases, credit cards, and driver’s licenses. Out of all of the investigated incidents, the highest value minor identity theft had $725,000 in debt on a 16 year old.

Appropriate Information Sharing

The Family Online Safety Institute reports that 43 percent of teens are aware of and concerned with identity theft. However, being concerned with their personal information getting in the wrong hands does not necessarily mean that your teen makes good decisions about who to trust online. Teach your teen exactly what information to withhold from people they do not know personally. Even an email address can dig up a great deal of personal information when it’s tied to social network profiles or forum accounts. Set up a separate email address for your teen that isn’t used to sign up for various online accounts, if they need to provide an email address for correspondence. Teach them to keep their real names, addresses, and social security numbers off of the Internet. When you’re dedicated to stopping identity theft, one of the easiest ways to avoid problems is to make sure the information is not present on the Internet due to your teen.

Locking Down Online Accounts

Many social networks offer extensive privacy settings your teen should know about and use. Twitter allows your teen to protect their account so only approved followers see what they’re writing. Facebook gives fine tuned control over privacy settings, as well as individually setting privacy levels on every post that’s made, so that your teen’s posts can reach the right amount of appropriate attention. Don’t overlook the tools available through these services.

Be Wary About Online Friends

Your teen may trust their newfound online friends with their life, but be careful about allowing them to meet people in-person. Arrange for meetings in public places and supervise them if possible. Do not allow your teen to bring people to your home on the initial meeting, as you want to keep your address information protected and safe for you and your teen’s safety.

Keep Passwords Safe

Teach your teens about phishing emails, which are emails designed to scam usernames, passwords, and other information from the recipient. These emails often look official, but the URLs within the email take you to a scam site, or urge you to reply directly to the email with sensitive information. Let your teens know to go to the website directly and to login by typing the URL in the address bar. Additionally, don’t leave social network or email accounts logged in at schools or public computing environments.

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