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The Online Mom provides internet technology advice and information to help parents protect their kids, encourage responsible behavior and safely harness the power of technology in the new digital world. Social networking, photo sharing, video games, IM & texting, internet security, cyberbullying, educational resources, the latest on tech hardware, gadgets and software for kids 3-8, tweens and teens, and more.

Protecting Personal Info

When you or your children enter or store personal information on your computer -- or send it across the Internet -- that information is potentially vulnerable. Now, in fairness, the Internet’s not uniquely vulnerable: for instance, your credit card information might be even more vulnerable when you hand it to a waiter. But that doesn’t make online identity theft any more pleasant. And children are at special risk in ways that go far beyond money! So, let’s talk about the steps you and your children can take to protect your personal information: both your financial information and the other personal information that could make your kids vulnerable to predators.
  1. Tell your children never to give personal information to strangers over the Internet, or to post that information in public where strangers can see it. Explain to them what personal information is: for example, your full names, phone numbers, home addresses, email addresses, birth dates, personal photos, or social security numbers. Personal information also includes details about your family that could help a stranger trick someone into believing they know you personally. Also, explain to them what kind of information they can provide: for example, first names rather than full names.
  2. If your older child wants to enter personal information to join a web site, make sure he or she asks your permission. Then, visit the site yourself, to make sure it’s legitimate.
  3. Don’t you casually hand out personal information online, either! (As adults, it’s easy to think we know better. Often, we don’t!) For instance, be careful about entering online competitions and promotions that ask for significant personal information, unless you’re confident of who will receive that data, and how they’re going to use it.
  4. Install anti-virus/anti-malware software that prevents other software from being installed on your computer which could steal your personal information. Then, keep that software up-to-date. This typically means paying for a yearly subscription, and making sure the software is set up to retrieve and install the latest downloads automatically.
  5. Don’t get tricked by phishing email messages – for instance, messages that tell you your bank account has been suspended, and offer a link where you can go to “fix” the problem. Real banks don’t send emails like that: if there’s a problem, they’ll get in touch with you by phone, postal mail, or in some other way. If you’re concerned about your account, either phone your financial service provider or go to their site’s home page and log in on their official login page. (If you’re not sure a site’s legitimate, don’t provide personal information. And you may want to get browsers with anti-phishing features, or special anti-phishing software that warns you when you’re visiting a site which might be trying to trick you.)
  6. If you (or your kids) are doing business online, look for the “locked” symbol on the page where you’re entering your shipping and credit card information. That symbol tells you your information is being transmitted securely. (This is important. But it isn’t the whole story. For instance, it doesn’t tell you that the web site is storing your data securely once it gets there!)


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