Internet Data Privacy Day 2010: How to protect your kids (and yourself) online

Jan. 28 is Internet Data Privacy Day 2010 and it's a good day to take time to educate yourself about what you can do to protect you and your data on the Internet. It's also a great time to figure how you can be sure your kids aren't getting into trouble with their activities using the Internet.

Did you know that 93% of kids 12 to 17 are online? Also that the average 2- to 11-year-old streams more online video than their parents? What do they watch? YouTube is a popular spot, where more than 13 hours are uploaded to YouTube every minute.

According to the white paper on Digital Literacy and Citizenship in the 21st Century, "America's children are growing up in the center of a technological revolution. Digital media defines their lives in unprecedented ways; they spend more time online, texting, watching TV and movies, and playing video games than they do in school or with their parents."You as a parent need to catch up. But first you should make sure that you understand what they are doing. You also need to be sure that you've protected your own data sufficiently.

A good place to start is the Federal Trade Commission's Privacy and Security pages and documents. The FTC also offers more detailed Web sites on fighting back against identity theft; guarding against Internet fraud and protecting your computer. You also should learn about protecting yourself against spyware, which can be installed on your computer without your consent. Once there it can be used to send you pop-up ads, redirect your computer to unwanted Web sites, monitor your Internet surfing, or record your keystrokes, which can then be used to steal your identity.

Once you take the time to learn about how your data can be at risk, you'll realize that your children could be at even greater risk because they may not be as aware of the dangers or cognitively understand the risks they take.

It's up to you to spend time with them on these issues and there are a number of excellent websites that you can use with your children to help them become better digital citizens.
  • The FTC's You Are Here Web site is interactive and designed for children to learn about advertising techniques, privacy on and off line, and rip-offs. Visit the Security Plaza and try the interactive tools yourself to familiarize yourself with what is available. Then spend time with your kids helping the to learn about privacy issues. You also may want to try out the other interactive sections of the website to help your children learn how to become better consumers and protect their pocketbooks. You can find more suggestions about how to make use of this Web site at the parents and teachers section.
  • LMK: Life Online was created by the Girl Scouts and Windows to help teens to safely navigate online. Articles are written by teens with the intent of helping both teens and their parents understand the online world. Some key topics you'll want to check out discuss privacy issues, online sexual predators and social netowrking.
  • Tips for Protecting Personal Privacy Online is a Web site developed by Common Sense Media to help parents explain key issues, such as the fact that nothing is really private and privacy settings are not infallible. You'll find tips for keeping personal information private, tips for setting up privacy settings on social network pages, tips for setting up rules about posting on the internet and tips about how to help your child understand the dangers of rumors. You also need to remind your kids that everything they post leaves a digital footprint and could come back to haunt them one day.
  • Social Media and Sexting -- The American Academy of Pediatrics put together an excellent page of tips about how to teach your children about social media and the hazards of sexting.
  • SafetyClicks, an AOL blog, helps you keep up to date on the ever changing issues of internet security.
Yes there is a lot to learn out there and if you want to get more involved, look for other ideas at the education and resources section of the Data Privacy Day 2010 website.

Learn how to use the internet and browse safely. You'll enjoy the digital world much more when you know you are secure.

Lita Epstein has written more than 25 books including "Surviving a Layoff: A Week-by-Week Guide to Getting Your Life Back Together" and the newly released book, "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Personal Bankruptcy."
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