After Google agreed to pay a record $170 million fine and promises to make changes to protect children’s privacy on YouTube for violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) Rule, the penalty raises awareness of parents need to be vigilant as children are increasingly connected to the Internet. Better Business Bureau (BBB) encourages parents to lead the way in teaching their kids the language of online privacy and protect them from being easy targets for online scammers. In the United States, about half of kids are on some form of social media by age 12, according to the Common Sense Media census report released in 2016. The report found that, overall, 56 percent of the children had their own social media accounts, based on parent survey responses. The reported data showed the average age when initially signing up for social media was 12.6 years old. “This early online interaction makes children prime targets for identity theft. They are clean slates with no blemishes on their credit report. Their details can be stolen and the theft itself can go undetected for years” said Michael Sedio, Chief Operations Office and General Council of Better Business Bureau PacificSouthwest. BBB warns about the most commonly reported scams: Creating accounts on websites: Social media sites are no exception. Many will sell unauthorized user details to advertisers looking to engage in targeted marketing. Contests and giveaways: Contests and giveaways require a hefty amount of personal information to enter. Many are merely scams created for that purpose. Phishing: Adults are not the only ones who receive spam and junk mail. Kids often get junk mail and without as much experience online, are more
likely to be susceptible. While some emails may be legitimate, a vast majority are not and the last thing parents want, or need, is a $500 bill from a fraudulent website where a purchase may have been made. File sharing sites: Many websites allow children to download free media. What they may not know is…these sites often come with the risk of downloading a virus that allows identity thieves to access their computer and personal information.
BBB shares tips on how parents can manage their children’s online privacy: Know About COPPA. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act protects personal information of children under the age of 13 on websites and online services—including apps. COPPA requires those sites and services to notify parents and get their approval before they collect, use or disclose a child’s personal information. However, if your nine-year old tells Instagram they are 13 (the age requirement to use the app), he or she won’t be protected by this law.
Use Parental Controls If Necessary. Although the best way to keep a child’s online privacy safe is to teach them to manage it themselves, it doesn’t hurt to have their backs by using parental controls, especially when they are young. Today Android, iOS, and most web browsers offer built-in features that allow parents to monitor their children’s online activities, but third-party apps are available as well. Share with care. What is posted online can last a lifetime: parents can teach their children that any information they share online can easily be copied and is almost impossible to take back. Talk to them about who might see a post and how it might be perceived in the future and share with them anything they do online can positively, or negatively, impact other people. Personal information is like money. It is vital to value and protect personal information. Information about kids, such as games they like to play and what they search for online, has value – just like money. Parents should inform their kids about the value of their information and how to be selective with which apps and websites they visit and utilize. Stay current. Keep pace with new ways to be safe online, stay up-to-date with new technology and ways to manage privacy. Visit staysafeonline.org or other trusted websites for the latest information about browsing the Internet safely. Tune up your search engine. One’s search engine can be pressed into service for free. Once parents set restrictions, Google will block sites with explicit material (Preferences/SafeSearch Filtering).
Set Up Online Gaming Privacy. Online gaming is the norm these days. Gaming often allows people to chat with one another while playing the game, through either text or voice. This can often be used to find information out from children.
If parents, family members or guardians think a site has collected information from their kids or marketed to them in a way that violates the law, it is important to report it to the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov/complaint and report the scam to BBB scam tracker.