Warn your Kids: What happens online--doesn't stay online.

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As the call of social networking catches the ear of younger and younger users the time to talk your kids about online safety has become more pressing.  Talking to kids about cyber safety has become as important as talking to your children about drugs.

Today's kids have grown up a product of the internet age, with some online as early as 5. To this group email and social networking sites are viewed as friends.  So, they rarely see a need to be cautious online.  In fact, teens and tweens routinely drop their guard and post information that they think will be seen only, by trusted friends.   When talking to your kids about online safety here are a few things to remember.

• Make sure that your children understand the difference between private information and post-able information.  For example posting their favorite movie is fine.  However, posting information such as their schedule, address, social security, driver license or even student identity number is dangerous.

• Discuss the fact that information placed on the internet can be viewed by any and everyone one, not just their friends.

• Explain the importance of creating a strong password. Sharing passwords, account numbers and other sensitive information is not like sharing secrets at school.

• And, explain that before "friending" or chatting, they need to be sure that they know the person on the other end.  Cyber predators are skilled at pretending to be their age.  So, be cautious of "friends" that ask for account numbers, financial information, and passwords.

• Tweens and teens should ask permission before making purchases online

• It's important to discuss the latest online scams to help them understand how easy it is to fall for tricks and cons used by professional online predators.

• Be sure to explain privacy settings and why they are important.  Usually it's a good idea to show your kids where these settings can be found on sites they visit the most. 

While having "the talk" is the most important thing that a parent can do, there are other steps that you should consider.  It's important to educate yourself on the various levels and types of cyber scams; the ways that your kids are getting on line and the sites they visit; and, the resources available for keeping your kids safe and protecting their identity.  

If you have not had the online safety talks with your children then now is the time to do it.

Here are a few great resources to help you keep your kids safe online;

Social Networking parents guide -Parents sometimes can feel outpaced by their technologically savvy kids. Technology aside, there are lessons that parents can teach to help kids stay safer as they socialize online. Social Networking Sites: A Parent's Guide 

On-line resources - NetCetera a website that the FTC maintains that provides parents with tools and videos on how to keep kids safe online.

On-line Tips - Netsmartz - a website with tips for kids of all ages.  So, parents can get age appropriate tips.
To quote a famous superhero "Knowing is Half the Battle."  Having the weapons to fight is important, but first you need to understand what you are up against.  The term cyber predator no longer refers to a criminal preying on children on line in order to lure them into a meeting.

Cyber thieves are predators too.  And, the number of identity victims under the age of 18 is increasing.  Since minors rarely have a need to monitor their identity or check their credit, their stolen identities can go undetected for weeks, sometimes months and years before being reported.  

While talking to your kids is important to stress that when it comes to the internet: whatever they say or do online ---doesn't stay online.  
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