This week is National Protect Your Identity Week, October 17-24, and in conjunction with this important reminder that identity theft, which affects both adults and young people, is a serious and a growing problem, the following is a revision of an article I wrote earlier this year.
When I write this type of article I sometimes feel as if I’m like the boy who ‘”cried wolf”, but I can assure you – I’m much more like the Dutch boy, in the story, who stuck his finger in the dike.
You’re a parent, and you actively participate in your teenager’s life, right? But how much do you know about where your teenager goes on the Internet?
Amongst 0ther considerations, do you think about –
What social networking sites your child subscribes to?
Who their online friends and acquaintances are?
What your child posts online and where it’s posted?
If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you are not alone. Recent statistics make it clear that fully 80% of parents don’t know. Ouch! It’s easy to see why this knowledge gap exists; since reports indicate 8 of out of 10 parents give their children unrestricted access to the Internet, without implementing parental control settings.
Contrast this reality with research completed by McAfee Inc., a well known and respected provider of antivirus software and intrusion prevention solutions, that indicated most American mothers rate their teenagers’ online safety, their exposure to drugs and drunk driving, as essentially equal anxiety producing agents.
A more recent McAfee/Harris interactive poll suggests that more than half of teens have talked to a stranger online. Given that it’s becoming more difficult to protect children and teenagers from the dangers on the Internet since there are so many dangers, and these dangers are constantly evolving, this is a chilling statistic.
Additional McAfee research statistics:
Providing personal information to online strangers – 52 per cent of teens in the study reported having done so.
Providing a photograph, or a physical description, to online strangers – 34 per cent of teenage girls in the study, reported having done so.
Clearing the browser cache so that their Internet history cannot be tracked – 32 per cent of the teenagers in the study reported having done so.
One of the most surprising and troubling statistics to be found in this study indicated that 16 per cent of the teenagers involved stated they had developed social networking profiles, and Email addresses, which they had hidden from their parents.
The “tech savvy” generation myth:
One of the more harmful myths, which most adults believe is, we have raised, or are raising a “tech savvy” generation. This “truth” however, should not be taken at face value.
Simply because a teenager is more comfortable with technology than a parent, does not makes a teenager tech savvy. Knowing how to text message, or load a game onto an Xbox, does not make one “tech savvy”. It really is a situation where “they don’t know what they don’t know”, can have serious impact.
I fully understand where this idea of the tech savvy generation comes from – just listen to the mainstream media. The media constantly pontificates on how technically literate today’s young people are. The dichotomy is, these are the same young people whose literacy skills are insufficient to deal with their own education, never mind the complexities the techno world presents.
From Wikipedia – Many students read “below grade level”. For example, many high-school graduates read at the 8th-grade level, and college graduates at the 10th-grade level.
Nearly all of today’s blockbuster writers write at the 7th-grade level, including John Grisham, Stephen King, J. K. Rowling, and Dan Brown. Experts today recommend writing legal and health information at the 7th-grade level. Laws often require writing medical and safety information at the 5th-grade level.
If you think this is an overstated argument, then consider this: According to a study of more than 19,000 college graduates, conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics, only 31 percent can read a complex book and extrapolate from it. Without doubt the world of Internet security is the most complex world I have ever inhabited.
Staying safe in today’s techno centric world demands knowledge, and acquiring that knowledge requires that a major effort be made to obtain it. Lacking in appropriate literacy skills makes the job of accumulating that knowledge a difficult undertaking.
It’s no wonder then, that the majority of children, and teenagers, are undereducated when it comes to recognizing the dangers, and threats, that the Internet poses to their personal privacy and safety.
What you can do:
You can bring yourself and your teenager up to speed on online safety, by taking the “McAfee/Comcast Cyber Summer Safety Challenge”. You might be surprised at what you can learn.
Then, follow the advice offered by the FBI in the United States, which lists some of the most important positive actions, you as a parent, can take to reduce your teenagers possible victimization on the Internet.
Communicate, and talk to your child about potential on-line dangers.
Spend time with your children on-line. Have them teach you about their favorite on-line destinations.
Keep the computer in a common room in the house, not in your child’s bedroom.
Utilize parental controls provided by your service provider and/or blocking software.
Since computer-sex offenders are a very real danger on the Internet, the FBI suggests that you instruct your teenager to:
Never arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone they met on- line.
Never upload (post) pictures of themselves onto the Internet or an on-line service to people they do not personally know.
Never give out identifying information such as their name, home address, school name, or telephone number.
Never download pictures from an unknown source; there is a good chance there could be sexually explicit images.
Never respond to messages or bulletin board postings that are suggestive, obscene, belligerent, or harassing.
An additional problematic issues is, the issue of sex, tech and teens; more precisely – teenaged sexting. For information on this current issue, please read “Sexting – A Real Problem or an Overreaction?” on this site.
If your operating system does not offer parental control features, and you would like to implement this, then check out my review, on this site, of a free application offered by WRAAC.org, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing free and effective Internet control tools – “Free Internet Child Protection – Parental Control Bar”.
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