Knowing where your kids are can be a full time job. Knowing where they are online—which websites they’re visiting and who they’re talking to—is even harder, but is no less important. The Better Business Bureau Children’s Advertising Review Unit encourages parents to teach their kids and tweens about unsafe online situations and recommends looking out for seven stop signs.
According to a study by the Neilsen Norman Group, kids as young as nine years old are becoming just as capable—if not more so—than their parents at navigating the Internet. While young kids may be computer whizzes, they aren’t necessarily as smart as their parents when it comes to identifying online threats, including predators and fraud.
“The best way to keep your kids safe online is to keep the lines of communication open,” said Wayne Keeley, director of the BBB Children’s Advertising Review Unit. “Talk to them about the possible dangers and let them know that they can always come to you if they feel confused, threatened or bullied online.”
Sit down with your kids and let them know that they should stop and come talk to you whenever they find themselves in these seven situations online:
- You visit a website which asks for financial information like bank, credit or debit card numbers. Some websites may try to get at your wallet through your kids. Let your kids know that it is never acceptable to give out your bank, credit or debit card numbers to anyone.
- You visit a website that asks for personal information like your home address, first and last name, e-mail address, phone or Social Security number. Your kids may not realize that information such as their full name, address, phone number or even their e-mail address or Social Security Number can be very valuable to companies that want to market products to them and also to identity thieves or predators online.
- A person you don’t know sends you inappropriate pictures or inappropriate language, or wants to actually meet up. Talk to your kids about what would constitute as inappropriate photos and conversations online, as well as the immense dangers of meeting up or talking to strangers.
- You want to post a picture of yourself online. Posting pictures online can seem harmless, but can often provide important clues to predators. Approve any photos before your kid posts them online until you feel they are old enough to make the right call.
- You are being harassed or bullied through a social networking site, e-mails or instant messages. Online bullying isn’t just a harmless prank and your kids need to know that it’s important they tell you before it goes too far.
- You get a friend request on a social networking site from someone you don’t know. Friending someone online that you don’t know in real life is opening the door to many possible threats such as hackers and predators.
- You want to sign up for a “free” service online or get “free” ringtones or daily joke text messages. “Free” rarely comes without a price online and supposedly, free services can result in repeated charges to your credit card or phone bill.
For more than 35 years, the BBB Children’s Advertising Review Unit has promoted responsible children's advertising by evaluating child-directed advertising and promotional material in all media to advance truthfulness, accuracy and consistency. CARU performs a high level of monitoring, including the scrutinizing of over ten thousand television commercials, and the review of advertisements in print, radio and online media.
To raise awareness of children’s online safety, CARU has created a series of TV PSAs that are airing nationwide and are also available online. Blogs, television and radio stations interested in spreading the word about online safety can contact Wayne Keeley at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about airing these PSAs.
Parents can report websites that request personally identifiable information from children under 13 at www.CARU.org.
More information about kids online safety is available at the CARU Parent’s Corner.