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Internet safety tips for teens

Between identity theft, cyberbullying, stalking and phishing scams, steer your teen away from internet dangers with this guide to online safety.

Teens looking at a tablet device

Open communication with your child or teen about their social media usage helps teach them about bad habits that could lead to your child’s identity being stolen. Even though it may be a difficult conversation, it’s an important one to teach them how to use social media safely and still connect with friends online. Ask your teen to walk you through their regular routine when browsing social media. What sites are they visiting regularly and how much time are they spending? Get to know their favorite sites and apps to better understand the risks.

Tips to help your teen understand how to stay safe when using social media

Personal information in the hands of someone with negative intentions can have lasting repercussions. This information can be used to steal your teen’s identity impacting their credit history, and pose a risk to their personal safety. The following items are good discussion items to chat with your teen.

Keep your personal information personal

It’s imperative to remind your teen never to share personal information without your permission. However, it’s equally as important to discuss what is considered personal information and why it shouldn’t be shared. This may include:

  • Full name. With this information, stalkers can address you as if they’re your friend.
  • The birthdate is often times used in conjunction with other information to log in to personal sites.
  • Phone number. Not only will this allow stalkers to contact you, but your phone number is sometimes used to log in to sites.
  • Allows people to know where you live.
  • Financial information. Combined with the information above, might allow individuals to gain access to your accounts.
  • School name (and school mascot). Not only let’s people know where you are but also can be used by criminals to pretend to be your friend.
  • Social Security number. Potentially allows for your identity to be stolen and financial accounts opened in your name.
  • Allows access to all your personal and financial information. If the person you’re thinking about is a friend, it’s still not a good idea to share passwords because it allows them to pretend to be you.

Watch for those surveys that are shared with friends

Another thing to watch for is phishing for your personal information. Your teen may see a fun survey being sent from friends asking very specific questions such as:

  • Name of your first pet,
  • Street where you grew up,
  • Mother’s maiden name,
  • Name of your childhood best friend, and
  • Make and model of your first car.

As innocent as those quizzes seem, those are commonly used security questions on accounts. Even though your teen knows the people they’re friends with, they don’t know all the people their friends are friends with. Prepare your teen for these as they seem like good fun, but they’re a way of gathering your personal information.

Should you share photos with your friends?

It’s important to remind your teen that even though the photos only last a few seconds on certain apps, it’s long enough for others to take a screenshot. It’s very important to talk to your teen about only sharing photos that they wouldn’t mind everyone seeing.

The easiest rule of thumb is to have your teen ask themselves, “Would I be okay with this picture being shared with everyone at my school?” If the answer is no, then it’s best to not share it. Once a picture is out on the web, it’s quite a chore to wipe it from existence.

Talk about the privacy settings

Review the privacy settings provided by the app your teen is using. Make sure your teen has strict privacy settings enabled to protect their photos and updates from strangers. Also ask your teen to only friend people online if they already know them in real life.

Check the application or device location setting. Some apps allow your teen the ability to share their location with friends and pinpoints where your friends are. Be cautious with location features and only share with a preset group of friends, including parents.

Talk about meeting friends made online in person

Share the dangers of an in-person meeting with someone they met online. If allowed, these meetings should require parental permission and a chaperone.

Review what cyberbullying really means

Teach your teen not to post embarrassing photos, send mean texts or spread hurtful rumors through electronics, and to immediately report any cyberbullying they witness. Also take time to learn the signs of bullying so you can recognize if your teen becomes a victim.

Internet safety is not just for your teens; the whole family should understand appropriate internet usage and the risks involved with social media. Review these additional tips for cyber safety, simple ways to bank online safely and safety in making purchases online.

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