Posting the Wrong Information on social networking sites can endanger youngsters and their families
The family is ready to head out of town for a week of vacation. The post office knows to hold your mail during your absence, but who else knows you will be leaving your home unattended? Hundreds of people? Thousands? The answer depends on whatever personal information family members – particularly children – post on social networking sites such as MySpace, Facebook and Twitter.
These sites allow children and teenagers to connect with classmates and other friends and social networking sites’ popularity continues to soar exponentially. The number of users between the ages of 13 and 18 grew by an estimated 88 percent in 2009 to almost 11 million. Young newcomers to the social networking world may not understand the implications of posting certain kinds of information or photos.
Some young users routinely share information about their family’s whereabouts, where they live or go to school and other details that can compromise the privacy and safety of a household or individual.
Connecticut Better Business Bureau President, Paulette Scarpetti, says parents must explain to their children the importance of not posting personal information and the many dangers that lurk online.
“Parents do not want their children broadcasting to the world when and for how long the family will be out of town. In addition, there are other immediate threats on social networking sites that should be discussed to keep youngsters safe online.”
Better Business Bureau offers the following tips to keep children safe online:
Explain the difference between sharing and over-sharing – While social networking is about sharing photos, thoughts and experiences, explain to your kids that they should never share personal information such as phone numbers, addresses, bank account numbers, passwords or Social Security numbers. Also talk about what constitutes inappropriate photos or language and stress the fact that—while you may be able to delete them—you can never fully take them back.
“Never talk to strangers” applies online too – One of the first rules we teach our kids is to never talk to strangers; remind them that the rule holds true when online. Even though chatting with a stranger online can seem harmless, the relationship can evolve and grow until the stranger has earned your child’s trust—and can then exploit it.
Use strict privacy settings – Social networking sites let users determine whom they want to share information with. Talk to your child about restricting access to his or her profile to only friends or users in safe networks such as their school, clubs or church groups.
Keep the channels of communication open – Let your kids know that you are always ready to talk if they are ever threatened, bullied or feel uncomfortable about an experience they had online.
Join them online – If you haven’t already, set up your own account on the same sites to help you better understand what social networking is all about. You also can then “Friend” your children and keep an unobtrusive eye on what they are doing.
Federal law requires sites collecting identifying information from children under 13 to get a parent’s consent first. Report concerns about data collection from children under 13 to the Children’s Advertising Review Unit of the Council of Better Business Bureaus at www.caru.org/complaint. You can learn more about how to keep your kids safe online at http://www.onguardonline.gov/topics/net-cetera.aspx.