Online privacy is a little like your weird Uncle Bob. He's hard to understand, and you really only miss him when he's gone. And just like Uncle Bob, online privacy can sound a little paranoid. Internet predators. Online safety. Data mining. These issues are far-ranging and murky, so they're easy to brush aside. What you or your kid posts or fills out online can wind up in the wrong hands, affecting your kid's future, safety, and reputation. It may be hard to care about Uncle Bob, but here are six reasons why you really should care about online privacy.
-Your kid's identity could be stolen. Internet-enabled toys and kids' devices store information about your kid "in the cloud" (which is just a cool name for servers). As the 2015 data breach of Vtech's InnoTab Max uncovered, hackers specifically target kids because they offer clean credit histories and unused Social Security numbers.
-Your kid could get hurt. Sharing whereabouts on location-aware social media such as Twitter, Kik, or Facebook reveals kids' physical locations to all their contacts - plenty of whom your kid doesn't know personally. Imagine a selfie that's location-tagged and says "Bored, by myself, just hanging out looking for something fun to do."
-Your kid could lose out on opportunities. Posting wild and crazy pics from prom 2016 paints a picture for potential admissions counselors, hiring managers, and others teens want to impress. They may not care that your kid partied - only that he showed poor judgment in posting compromising images.
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-You could get ripped off. Schools are increasingly using software tools to teach, diagnose potential learning issues, and interact with students. That means they're storing students' personal information, progress reports, and other records that marketers would love to get their hands on. Let's say your child has specific behavior issues tracked by software she uses at school. The software company could share this information with a third party who might prey on parents' vulnerability - concern for their kids' welfare - based on this data.
-Your kid could get labeled. As schools automate procedures, they create student records with sensitive - and potentially damaging - information. In the wrong hands, information such as an individual education plan (IEP), a disciplinary record, or even a high body mass index could be used to unfairly disqualify your kid from opportunities.
-Your kid could be humiliated. Sharing fun stuff from your life with friends is fine. But oversharing is never a good idea. When kids post inappropriate material - whether it's a sexy selfie, an explicit photo session with a friend, an overly revealing rant, or cruel comments about others - the results can be humiliating if those posts become public or shared widely. Talk to your kids about keeping private things private, considering how far information can travel and how long it can last, and how they can talk to their friends about respecting one another's personal privacy.
Common Sense Media is an independent nonprofit organization offering unbiased ratings and trusted advice to help families make smart media and technology choices. Check out our ratings and recommendations at www.commonsense.org.
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