You can help your kids use the Internet safely by teaching them some basic rules. Microsoft gives some basic lessons that parents can help their kids to learn.
1. Encourage kids to keep passwords secret
Kids create online user names and passwords for school, game Web sites, social networking, posting photos, shopping, and more. According to a study by Teen Angels of Wired Safety.org, 75 percent of 8- to 9-year-olds shared passwords with someone else, and 66 percent of girls, grades 7-12, said they shared their password with someone else. The first rule of Internet safety is: keep passwords secret. Encourage kids to treat their passwords with as much care as the information that they protect.
Here are some rules that kids should know and follow:
Don’t reveal passwords to others. Keep your passwords hidden, even from friends.
Protect recorded passwords. Be careful where you store passwords that you record or write down. Don’t store passwords in your backpack or wallet. Don’t leave records of your passwords anywhere that you would not leave the information that the passwords protect. Don’t store your passwords on a file in your computer. Criminals look there first.
Never provide your password over e-mail or in response to an e-mail request. Any e-mail message that requests your password or requests that you to go to a Web site to verify your password could be a kind of fraud called a phishing scam. This includes requests from trusted sites that you might visit all the time. Fraudsters often create fake e-mail messages with logos and language from real sites.
Do not type passwords on computers that you do not control. Don’t use public computers in your school, library, Internet cafes, or computer labs for anything other than anonymous Internet browsing. Don’t use these computers for any account that requires a user name and password. Criminals can purchase keystroke-logging devices for very little money and they take only a few moments to install. With these devices malicious users can gather information typed on a computer from across the Internet.
2. Help your kids use social networking safely
Your kids may use social networking sites designed for children such as Webkinz or Club Penguin, or sites designed for adults such as Windows Live Spaces, YouTube, MySpace, Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, and others.
Kids use social networks to connect with others who might live halfway around the world and with their peers whom they see every day at school. Kids should understand that many of these social networking sites can be viewed by anyone with access to the Internet. As a result, some of the information they post can make them vulnerable to phishing scams,cyberbullying, and Internet predators.
Here are several ways to help kids use social networking sites safely:
Communicate with kids about their experiences. Encourage your children to tell you if something they encounter on the Internet makes them feel anxious, uncomfortable, or threatened. Stay calm and remind your kids it is OK to bring it to your attention. Let them know that you will work with them to help resolve the situation positively.
Establish Internet rules. As soon as your children use the Internet on their own, establish rules for Internet use. These rules should define whether your children can use social networking sites and how they can use them.
Ensure your kids follow age limits. The recommended age to sign up for social Web sites is usually 13 and over. If your children are under the recommended age, do not let them use the sites. You cannot rely on the services themselves to keep your underage child from signing up.
Teach your children never meet anyone in person that they’ve communicated with online only. Kids are in real danger when they meet strangers in person whom they’ve communicated with online only. It might not be enough to simply tell your child not to talk to strangers, because your child might not consider someone they’ve “met” online to be a stranger.
Encourage your children to communicate with people they already know. You can help protect your children by encouraging them to use these sites to communicate with friends, but not with people they’ve never met in person.
Ensure your kids don’t use full names. Teach your child to use only a first name or nickname, but not a nickname that would attract inappropriate attention. Also, do not allow your children to post the full names of their friends.
Be wary of identifiable information in your child’s profile. Many social Web sites allow kids to join public groups that include everyone who goes to a certain school. Be careful when your children reveal information that can identify them, such as a school mascot, a workplace, or the name of the town they live in. Too much information can make your children vulnerable to cyberbullying, Internet predators, Internet fraud, or identity theft.
Consider using a site that is not very public. Some Web sites allow you to password-protect your site or use other methods to help limit viewers to only people your child knows. With Windows Live Spaces, for example, you can set permissions for who can view your site, ranging from anyone on the Internet to only people you choose.
Be smart about details in photographs. Explain to your children that photographs can reveal a lot of personal information. Encourage your children not to post photographs of themselves or their friends with clearly identifiable details such as street signs, license plates on their cars, or their school name on clothing.
Warn your child about expressing emotions to strangers. Kids use social Web sites to write journals and poems that often express strong emotions. Explain to your children that anyone with access to the Internet can read their words and predators often search out emotionally vulnerable kids.
Teach your children about cyberbullying. As soon as your children are old enough to use social Web sites, talk to them about cyberbullying. Tell them that if they think they’re being cyberbullied, they should share this information right away with a parent, a teacher, or another adult that they trust. It’s also important to encourage kids to communicate with other people online in the same way they would face-to-face. Ask kids to treat other people the way they would prefer to be treated.
3. If your kids blog, make sure they don’t reveal too much
The practice of blogging, short for keeping a “Web log” or online personal journal, has spread like wildfire – especially among teenagers, who sometimes maintain blogs without the knowledge of their parents or guardians. Social networking has now surpassed blogging as the online pastime of choice for most teenagers, however many kids still blog on their social networking Web site. Recent studies show that teenagers write roughly half of all blogs today, with two out of three providing their age, three out of five revealing their location and contact information, and one in five revealing their full name. There are risks in sharing detailed personal information.
Although keeping a blog offers potential benefits including improved writing skills and communication, it’s important to educate your kids about the Internet and blogging before they begin – much like completing driving school before driving a car.
Here are a few suggestions to get started:
Establish rules for online use with your kids and be diligent.
Screen what your kids plan to post before they post it. Seemingly innocuous information, such as a school mascot and town photo, could be put together to reveal where the author goes to school.
Ask yourself (and instruct your kids to do the same) if you are you comfortable showing any of the content to a stranger. If in doubt, have them take it out.
Evaluate the blogging service and find out if it offers private, password-protected blogs.
Check out other blogs to find positive examples for your kids to emulate.
4. Beware of online fraud
According to the Federal Trade Commission, 31 percent of reported victims of identity theft are young people. Teenagers make attractive targets because they have good credit ratings and little debt, and they tend to be less savvy than adults about how to keep personal information secure.
Some things that your children should know in order to be smart consumers and avoid online fraud:
Never share personal information. Don’t give out personal information, such as your full name or hometown, in an instant message (IM) or a chat room unless you are certain of the identity of the person with whom you are chatting.
Log off in public. If you use computers in a library or Internet cafe, log off completely before you leave. You don’t know what software is installed on these computers or what it does and it might have keystroke tracking software installed.
Create secure passwords and keep them secret.
Use only secure sites. If your kids shop on the Web, they should be sure the URL of any site where they enter financial information begins with https:// and features a yellow lock icon in the bottom right corner or a green address bar. They can click the icon or address bar to check the security certificate for the site.
Recognize and report fraud. Teach your kids about the warning signs of identity fraud: preapproved credit card offers, calls from collection agencies, or unfamiliar financial statements. If your child suspects identity fraud, take action immediately to limit the damage. Contact their credit card company, banks, all three credit-reporting agencies, and the police. Close any fraudulent accounts, and tell them to change their passwords for all online accounts. Keep records of all actions that you’ve taken.