Forget passing notes in class or hanging photos on locker doors. Today’s children and teenagers most often turn to Internet social networking sites to share information and talk to friends.
With most of summer vacation still ahead, children and teens will most likely have lots of time to spend on social networks, whether from their home computers, phones or tablets. And though social networking is a convenient and effective way to keep up with friends and family, using social networking sites in an unsafe or inappropriate manner could lead to trouble for children and adults alike.
In recognition of Internet Safety Month, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel today issued this consumer alert with recommendations for Arkansas consumers about how to stay safe while using social networks.
“It’s very convenient to connect with friends and family on social networks, but that convenience also makes it easier for identity thieves, scammers and those who would exploit our children,” McDaniel said. “So, it’s important for parents to have guidelines about Internet usage and talk to their children about how to avoid online dangers.”
The Attorney General said Arkansas consumers can follow a few safety tips that will reduce the risk of online dangers when children and teenagers are using social networks.
Here are those recommendations:
• Talk to children and teenagers about using caution when sharing information with “friends” they know solely from social networking sites. They should never give out their phone numbers, home addresses or school addresses to someone they meet on the Internet but do not know in person. Internet predators or identity thieves could create fake social networking profiles for nefarious purposes.
• Encourage children and teenagers to discuss with parents or a responsible adult if an online “friend” behaves in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable.
• Learn how each social networking site operates before allowing children or teens to join. Some sites allow only a defined, specific community of users to access posted content. Other sites might allow anyone to view postings. Consider implementing the highest privacy settings available, and avoid social networking sites that do not allow users to control access to postings.
• Remember the “front page” rule, which is: Users should not put anything on a social network that they would not want to see on the front page of a local newspaper. Keep in mind that information posted online is permanent. In addition, others may able to save information from popular social networking tools in which users may think data is automatically erased.
• Just as adults should never post information on social networks about when they are going on vacation or out of town, children and teenagers should never mention on the Internet when they are home alone.
• Be sure all social media accounts have unique, strong passwords. Make passwords more difficult to hack by including numbers and special characters. Having unique and strong passwords can prevent hackers from taking over an account to scam friends or use information against the owner of the account.
For Arkansas consumers who want to know more about social networking and online safety, visit the Attorney General’s website, www.ArkansasAG.gov. The Attorney General’s Community Relations Department offers seminars and free training on Internet safety. To request a presentation or additional information, call (800) 448-3014.
To learn more about consumer-related issues, visit the Consumer Protection Division website, www.GotYourBackArkansas.org, or call (800) 482-8982.