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Internet Hazards That Could Harm Your Kids
By Sentinel Staff Writer
Published March 15, 2007

According to a recent Pew Internet and American Life Project Research Study, 81 percent of parents believe teen-agers aren't careful when volunteering personal information online and 79 percent of teens agree. 

Online social networking is the process of communicating with friends, business colleagues, classmates and others through the Internet. An online social network creates a virtual community for others to join and feel connected to each other. The concept of social networking sites, such as MySpace, Friendster and Xanga, is incredible. It allows people from all over the world to share information and connect with one another.

Appealing as that is, the potential risks lie in the amount of personal information members–especially young members–may divulge about themselves through videos, photos or written communication.

Teen identity theft victim, Zach Friesen knows the importance of keeping personal identifying information safe at all times. Friesen's identity was stolen when he was seven years old. At age 17, he learned he was the victim of identity theft and that thieves used his name for purchases totaling $40,000.

"It is important for parents and guardians to become involved and aware of these sites and talk with their children about the safety issues surrounding them," says Friesen. "Parents should let kids know the dangers of sharing too much personal information while online."

Qwest Communications wants to help parents and guardians learn about the potential dangers of social networking sites and how they can help keep their families safer while on the Internet. The Qwest Online Safety Classroom, located at www.IncredibleInternet.com, gives parents and guardians Internet safety tips and resources to understand this new way to communicate as well as valuable identity theft prevention solutions.

According to Friesen, the amount of personal information available on social networking sites makes them the perfect place for identity thieves to quickly gather information for future crimes. Often, one can find the real names, addresses and phone numbers of the online users. This information can then potentially be used in a predatory manner or to steal an identity. For more information about social networking sites and identity theft, visit www.IncredibleInternet.com.

Social networking site safety tips for parents and guardians from www.NetSmartz.org.

  • Discuss the dangers and future repercussions with your child of sharing personal identifying information online.
  • Enter into a safe-computing contract with your child about his or her use of these sites and computer use in general.
  • Enable computer Internet filtering features if they are available from your Internet service.
  • Know each of your child's passwords, screen names and all account information.
  • Put the computer in a family area of the household and do not permit private usage.
  • Discuss with your child that you are going to monitor what your child and your child's friends are posting regarding your child's identity. Often children and their friends have accounts linked to one another, so it's not just your child's profile and information in which you need to worry.
  • Know and talk with your child about what other access he or she has to computers and devices like cell phones and Personal Data Assistants, or PDAs.
  • Report criminal behavior to the appropriate law-enforcement agency, including the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children's CyberTipline at www.cybertipline.com, or the Internet Fraud Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.

Zach Friesen is a teen identity theft victim and spokesperson for Qwest Communications who travels to high schools across the country to talk about identity theft and the dangers of sharing personal identifying information on social networking sites. Learn more about Zach at www.IncredibleInternet.com.


 – Courtesy of ARA Content



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