For Kids, the Internet Can Be a Dark and Dangerous Place

Dear Mr. Dad: My 9-year old son is pretty computer savvy and my wife and I haven’t had much issue with letting him use the computer on his own. He likes to play games, visit a few sites, and read online comics. I’ve been hearing more and more about the threats on the Internet, and both my wife and I are becoming more concerned that we might be letting our son put himself in some dangerous situations without knowing it. What can we do to make sure he stays safe while he’s online?

A: You’re right to be worried. The Internet is filled with tons of information (some of which is actually accurate), and all sorts of things to improve our lives. But as hard as it is to imagine life without the Internet, we sometimes forget that it can be an incredibly dangerous place, home to any number of threats, from identity thieves to viruses and pedophiles. You wouldn’t let your child go outside alone without a firm understanding of basic safety rules (don’t talk to strangers, look both ways before you cross the street, etc.), right? So why would you let him go online without having similar boundaries in place?

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Empty Nest Road Trip + Digital Privacy under Attack

[amazon asin=B00AB0XRCW&template=thumbnail&chan=default]Guest 1: Bruce Sallan, author of The Empty-Nest Road Trip Blues .
Topic: Taking a child to college—from the dad’s point of view.
Issues: An 8-day, 3000-mile father-son trip to talk about life, the future, and the past.

[amazon asin=1588168581&template=thumbnail&chan=default]Guest 2: Davin Coburn, author of Who’s Spying on You?.
Topic: The looming threat to your privacy, identity, and family in the digital age.
Issues: How to prevent every move from being tracked on your smartphone; which phones offer the most protection; how avoiding EZpass, Zigbee wireless devices , and Android phones can help protect privacy; how to keep medical and pharmaceutical records private and avoid identity theft; warning signs of hacking or compromised security.

The Terms of Motherhood + Child ID Theft

[amazon asin=B007PM0BNW&template=thumbnail1&chan=default]Guest 1: Kristin van Ogtrop, author of Let Me Lie Down.
Topic: Necessary terms for the half-insane working mom.
Issues: Terms and concepts that illustrate the highs, and the lows of balancing work and family.

[amazon asin=1936984113&template=thumbnail1&chan=default]Guest 2: Joe Mason, author of Bankrupt at Birth.
Topic: Why child ID theft is on the rise and how it’s happening right under our noses.
Issues: Who, exactly, is perpetrating child id theft and why they do it; the most common forms of ID theft and how you can tell if your child is a victim; how to proect your child’s social security number; the role of social media in ID theft.

Stealing our children’s identity

If you haven’t been the victim of identity theft, you probably know someone who was. But has it ever occurred to you that your children could have their identity stolen too? It happens. A lot. And it’s especially nasty because it might take years to discover–who bothers to check a 2-year old’s credit rating?

Over 9 million Americans–including more than 500,000 children–have their identities stolen every year. You might be tempted to say, “Big deal.” But that would be a mistake. A young child’s lily white credit report makes it especially attractive to thieves, who can use the child’d identity to apply for jobs, get credit cards, open utility accounts (gas, electric, garbage), get a driver’s license, and more.

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Putting your financial future in your child’s hands?

Dear Mr. Dad: My son is starting college–more than 1000 miles from home–in the fall. He’s a remarkably responsible young man when it comes to academics and getting jobs. But he’s hopelessly naive about things like identity theft, credit card fraud, and the like. I don’t want to panic him but I think he needs to know a little bit more about how the world works. How can we convince him to pay more attention to his own security?

A: Well, the good news is that you and your son are absolutely typical of parents and young adults these days. Unfortunately, that’s also the bad news.

I had a horrifyingly eye-opening conversation with Robert Siciliano, a college and personal security expert. According to Bob, four out of five Americans will be the victims of some kind of theft or fraud during their lifetime. Most adults say they’re concerned about things like identity theft and they’ve taken steps like installing antivirus and Internet protection software on their computers and shredding personal documents. And about 80 percent of parents of college kids say they’ve talked with their children about these and other safety precautions. Sadly, the majority of the kids themselves seem to be suffering from a serious case of “it can’t happen to me” syndrome.

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