Those were the days when all parents had to worry about was the creepy guy lurking near the playground. Now parents have to worry about creeps all over the world reaching their kids via computer. And there’s more to worry about. Here’s what to teach your kids: 2P

  • Screen names should not be revealing about location, age or even gender. Never use the full name. Choose a name that would never outright point to the user, such as “Chris J,” when everyone knows the user as Tina Jones. “Chris” can make Tina (Christina) still feel connected to the screen name. And “sweetcheeks” isn’t a good screen name for anyone, especially a kid.
  • Before posting anything, make sure the answer would be “yes” if asked if your grandmother would approve.
  • Deleting an image or comment doesn’t mean it’s removed from cyberspace. While it was up, it could have been shared and recirculated. The No. 1 rule is: Once it’s online, it’s permanently there, no matter what you do with it afterwards.
  • Don’t assume that just because the privacy settings are high, that only a very limited audience will view the posting. Somehow, some way, there’s always a way for something to “get out.” An example would be an authorized viewer sharing the image or posting.
  • Racy images and offensive posts may seem harmless now, but down the road can return to haunt the user when they apply for college, a job or are in a lawsuit.
  • Never impersonate anyone.
  • Discourage sharing personal things online; it’s better to just yak about it in person or over the phone. As for things like address and Social Security number, this information should never be given out unless for a job or school application.
  • Be polite online. “Speak” coherently, use punctuation, don’t ramble, don’t swear and don’t use all caps. Use spell check when possible.
  • Avoid sex talk online at all costs. A predator can pose as anyone and win the trust of kids.

Parents should learn about how privacy settings work so that their kids aren’t left to figure it out themselves. Otherwise, uninformed kids might just let it go and not bother. This approach will let the whole world see what they’re posting. Privacy settings for all accounts should be high, including chat and e-mail accounts.

  • Keep the lines of communication open with your kids.
  • Peruse the social networking sites your kids use to see if they’re posting anything risky or inappropriate, such as announcing vacation plans (something that burglars search for).
  • Tell your kids to report anything suspicious online, just as they’d report to you if someone was hiding in the bushes outside your house.
  • Review the friends list of your kids.
  • Install Hotspot Shield VPN. This is security software which, in addition to antivirus/phishing software and a firewall, will help prevent hacking.
  • Make the non-negotiable rule that you can check your kids’ devices at will, and that any online “friend” your child wishes to meet must meet you first.

Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to Hotspot Shield. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen See him discussing internet and wireless security on Good Morning America. Disclosures.

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