Protect Your Child's PrivacyJennifer Martinez
It's no secret that our personal information is at risk on the Internet. Everyone -- from legitimate marketers to scammers, spammers and predators -- wants to know more and more about us. As an adult, you probably have a pretty good idea to whom you should or shouldn't give your personal information. But does your child?
Threats to your child's privacy on the Internet are numerous. Any web site, email, or instant message (IM) that asks a child to provide personal information can put them (and you) at risk. Based on the online activities that are popular with kids, here are some of the scenarios where your child is likely to be asked for personal information, and when to display the most caution.
Joining web sites Many web sites, particularly those that children visit, ask or require that kids join or register to gain full access to the site. Some will ask only for a name (or screen name) and email address. Others may ask for more complete information, however, including a physical address and phone number. Social networking sites and instant messaging services may entice, if not require, children to post profiles that include much more personal information, including their age, gender, a photo, likes and dislikes and more. These profiles can be accessed by anyone, including predators.
Contests and giveaways Kids are likely to encounter contests and giveaways that entice them to register to win prizes or earn rewards. These contests and giveaways are promoted on web sites, product packages, in magazines and on TV. All of them require your child to provide personal information.
Email Like you, kids get spam and junk email, too. And they are likely to be more susceptible to it. Some of it may be legitimate advertising or promotional email that they receive because of personal information they have divulged on web sites. While such email is annoying, it doesn't present a risk, per se. The email that does present risk is unsolicited spam. It may include attachments containing viruses that could damage the information on your computer. Or it may include spyware that makes it possible to steal your personal or financial information and passwords. Some emails may direct your child to a web site which may appear to be familiar, but is actually an illicit fake site.
Music-sharing web sites There are many popular music sharing web sites that allow your child to download free music and also require them to share the music on their (or your) computer. This not only creates traffic on your computer, it may also enable hackers and identity thieves to access your computer. The music they download may also include viruses or other malicious code.
Playing games Interactive game web sites often require registration, which includes giving up personal information, before gaming can begin.
to guide your kids
When it comes to protecting your kids' online privacy, start by talking to your children. Establish rules regarding the release of personal information online. Try the following guidelines, which you can refine according to the age and maturity of your child:
Your children must ask you before they provide any personal information, even an email address, to any person or web site.
They should show you any profile that they post on a social networking site or instant messaging service. Make sure it doesn't include your children's age, gender, address, phone number, or other identifying details.
If they go to what they think is a familiar web site and it asks for information that they have already provided or don't understand, they should ask you before proceeding. It could be a fake web site.
They must not enter a contest or giveaway, even those sponsored by familiar web sites or products, without your permission.
They should never open or answer email from someone they don't know, and never open the attachments in such email without asking you first.
They shouldn't download or share music online. In addition to opening up your computer to malicious software, downloading and sharing copyrighted music is illegal.
They shouldn't register on game sites without your approval.
your child's privacy rights
In addition to talking to your child and setting rules for their time on the Internet, pay attention to what they're doing online. The Internet is a great place to learn, explore, communicate and socialize. With your help, your child can avoid giving up his or her privacy and safety.
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