“How to Protect Your Family from Social Media” — As If It’s the Flu

Hi Readers — How I love being an “online influencer.” It means I get a ton of press releases from folks seeking publicity, including one that just came in suggesting I interview a particular “social krysiyiyzh
media expert”
 regarding “How to Protect Your Family from Social Media.”

I guess if this were a generation or two earlier she would have been offering advice on “How to Protect Your Family from The Telephone,” and before that, “How to Protect Your Family from the Telegraph,” or maybe cave drawings. Because, clearly, people communicating with each other is something inherently dangerous.

The expert’s expertise includes, according to the press release:

      ·        How to protect your children from the dangers lurking on social media. [“Lurking.” Love it! So old school!]

      ·        How to best inform your kids about online predators. [Something weird about that verb, “inform.” Inform is what you do when you tell your kids there’s a sale on sneakers at the mall. “Inform” them about predators and the predators become a given fact: “Kids, if you go to the internet of course you’re going to find a bunch of predators. That’s just the way it is.”]

       ·       Things you should and should NOT post online such as:

        .     “We’re going on vacation!” — An open invitation for burglars. [No? Really? Why did no one ever mention this tip before?]

        .     Photos of the interior or layout of your home  — a roadmap for would-be intruders. 

That last bullet point is really why I’m posting this. Photos of your home are going to assist burglars in finding their way around the otherwise completely confounding and complex layout of your home? I just love the idea of an intruder intently studying the photos of your ranch house — “Let’s see. I’ll take a left at the dining room and that takes me into the kitchen. Wait, no, I take a RIGHT…”  When I’m in a hotel and there’s a map of the emergency exits posted near the elevator I can never even figure out which way is the staircase and which way’s the ice machine. But post photos of a couple of rooms on your Facebook page and suddenly Barry the Burglar is planning his heist like those guys in Brussels.

Ah, what a lot of expertise I’ve been offered to share! But as I just learned, I must beware of social media. Perhaps the expert is one of the many predators lurking! In the interests of keeping us all safe from this scary possibility, I am not printing her name. – L.

Expert advice: Dig hole, insert family’s collective head. Now you’re safe!

68 Responses to “How to Protect Your Family from Social Media” — As If It’s the Flu

  1. Tim February 21, 2013 at 9:23 am #

    Laugh at cave drawings all you want, but have you seen some?!

    Some of them are REALLY explicit. Like people actually KILLING mammoths and shit. Wouldn’t want the kids to be exposed to them!

    I am joking, of course 🙂

  2. baby-paramedic February 21, 2013 at 9:34 am #

    Houses are for the most part the same. When searching a house for my patient or a better exit for my stretcher, I am very rarely confounded by the layout. In fact, the ones that tend to surprise me are the ones that have been modified for easy ambulance access.
    Same as you can walk into someone’s kitchen who have not seen before and usually locate the cups and cutlery in a few seconds.

  3. Emily February 21, 2013 at 9:34 am #

    Wow…….I’ve broken every one of those rules before, and so has everyone I know. For example, I’ve taken pictures of the inside of my house at Christmas time, of the Christmas tree and other decorations, or even just at random times of the year, if I feel like taking a picture of my dog. After that, yes, I’ve posted them on Facebook. My parents even figured out how to use YouTube, and posted a video of the dog doing various tricks, and that video shows our whole kitchen, complete with its easily-break-innable sliding glass door, but again, that hasn’t tempted any robbers either. I’ve probably also mentioned when I was going on vacation (although posting vacation pictures doesn’t seem to be dangerous, according to this article). I don’t remember ever giving specific vacation dates, but more like, “Yay, we’re off to the Blahblah Whatsit Cottage Resort!!!” However, nobody’s ever tried to break in based on my Facebook status.

    Also, when I was living in Australia, picture-taking was a much more regular thing than it was back home in my parents’ house, because there were more special occasions that happened, because I had nine people living in my house instead of four, so that’s nine birthdays, plus however many cultures’ worth of cultural events (if they wanted to celebrate them), and of course, there was almost always someone who felt the need to photograph and post all their meals on the Internet, or at least the ones that took effort to cook. Still, nobody broke into our house over that, and nobody broke into iHouse proper over photos posted of Performance Nights, iFeast, the semi-annual bush dance or charity gala, or even just day-to-day, silly friend moments. I hope that this doesn’t catch on as a trend, and become an insurance requirement, because if people are forbidden from posting photos of the insides of THEIR OWN HOMES (permanent or temporary) in the name of “safety,” then a lot of happy memories are going to go unshared.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is, the flip side of social media being dangerous when used improperly, is that it can also be really wonderful. Instead of photos being stored away in dusty albums in dark cabinets, and hauled out for marathon viewing sessions at family gatherings, they can be shared a few at a time, so your friends and family members can see a photo of, say, little Johnny’s first steps on Tuesday, little Susie’s birthday party on Saturday, and Uncle Marty’s wedding the week after that, and feel more a part of your family’s life, than if they were flipping through a photo album at a family party, and seeing five years go by in so many pages, and feel like they’ve missed out. The same goes for my situation, with friends going off to different universities, or leaving a place like International House to return to their home countries, maybe for a summer, maybe for a few years, or maybe forever. Without Facebook and Skype, we’d be completely disconnected from one another, but since we have those tools, our friendships can continue, even if it has to be in a different way.

  4. pentamom February 21, 2013 at 9:38 am #

    The one that always cracks me up is “don’t post your location when you’re out to dinner.”

    Right. Because it would never otherwise occur to a burglar that people might be you, know, out to dinner at dinner time. And he’s going to head right over to your home in the absolutely security that no one else is home, and you won’t arrive home in the meantime.

    Or “don’t ever mention when you’re going on a trip.” Family vacation, yes. Business trip, no. Not if you also happen to mention trivial things like “there are other members in my family.”

    So many of these security tips oddly assume that absolutely everyone 1) lives alone and 2) has Facebook friends who are burglars, or informants for burglars or 3) doesn’t know how to set their settings so that they’re not advertising their location to complete strangers.

    I’m not saying you should splash all over the Internet that you’re leaving for Italy for a month with your family and you hope your house is safe because no one is house-sitting, but really, I have trouble seeing the harm in notifying people you know that you’re away from home from a couple of indeterminate hours, or that one out of all the possible people who live in your home might be elsewhere for a while.

  5. vjhreeves February 21, 2013 at 9:39 am #

    I always love your posts, but that one actually had me laughing out loud more than a few times. Especially the “expert advice” at the end. Carry on! : )

  6. Mike February 21, 2013 at 9:39 am #

    I always laugh at the “don’t let people know you’re out of town on Social Media!” warning.

    Then we spend two hours packing the SUV in front of the house for all to see. Or, you know, go to work during the time when 90% of people work.

    A thief can *easily* determine if a house is occupied. It’s what they do. And a publicized vacation is probably the worst time to rob the average house since there is no legitimate reason to be there an you stick out like a sore thumb to anyone watching.

    What about home invasion? Don’t let people know you’re home!!!!

    It’s all another example of how we base safety and security on perception and stories instead of real risk.

  7. Coccinelle February 21, 2013 at 9:55 am #

    I must admit that when our owner took pictures of our appartment to put up on internet, we tried to hide our new computer. It’s not like we are paranoid but it only took a minute, so why not do it.

  8. Sara February 21, 2013 at 9:58 am #

    Clearly, she has never heard of the many Day In The Life photo projects/groups…

    @Tim: Never mind the violence, what about the boobs?

  9. Earth.W February 21, 2013 at 10:02 am #

    I don’t believe in hiding children from the world but educating them so they know how to distinguish between the good and the bad. Not just treat everything as suspicious and untrustworthy.

  10. Captain America February 21, 2013 at 10:14 am #

    Over last summer I ran into a woman who told me of her house being burglarized. It had been for sale, on the market, and photos of the interior were included on a real estate website.

    So apparently the burglars saw what they liked and took it!

    Some precious things now gone forever.

  11. dancing on thin ice February 21, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Thanks Lenore for my twice daily dose of sanity and for security expert Bruce Schneier.
    I agree with Pentamom about the unlikelihood of a burglary after posting vacation plans on Spacebook.
    People around the world can read about it, if the ever changing settings allow. But it is doubtful that many are close by and not someplace like Eastern Europe.

    Only a third of the 3 dozen fiend requests I’ve gotten have been added as friends. If one is worried about someone robbing them, I suggest being more careful on who you add.

  12. ms.c. February 21, 2013 at 10:18 am #

    When I was a kid, internet use was fairly new and a lot of parents were absolutely paranoid about it. My folks pretty much just told me not to use my real name to interact with strangers and not to say anything I’d regret in public. I think similar advice would apply now. If you don’t have strangers as Facebook friends, you’re probably not at risk of being robbed by one of them. Also, it’s never a good idea to say stupid things in public, on social media or otherwise. Common sense applies everywhere.

  13. lollipoplover February 21, 2013 at 10:31 am #

    I love how the safety experts want us to think the bad guys are constantly watching us, waiting for us to slip up and post on Facebook the outside the house picture, winning the lottery surrounded by money bags, along with the post that we are at Red Lobster two towns away. Come on bad guys, put your masks on and let’s go!

  14. Ravana February 21, 2013 at 10:32 am #

    Actually, when the telephone started to become a fixture in most households there was a great fear that its use by the general public would cause addiction, insanity, and the breakdown of social mores.

  15. pentamom February 21, 2013 at 10:38 am #

    “But it is doubtful that many are close by and not someplace like Eastern Europe.”

    Yep. And that’s the same thing with “never post your child’s picture lest some creep come get her.” Oh, now, I’m so worried, some guy in Tuscaloosa has impure thoughts about my child and is going to buy a plane ticket and hunt down my child.

    Per Captain America’s story, I guess no one’s saying it can’t happen, but an unattended house with a real estate sign out in front is going to be a pretty big target anyway. That they showed the stuff online might not have been all that great a factor.

  16. Jenna K. February 21, 2013 at 10:39 am #

    I think this is one of those things that’s all about common sense. Don’t post anything you wouldn’t actually say to people. As far as posting pictures of your house, mentioning where you are eating dinner, or saying you are out of town, well, unless your Facebook friends are complete strangers that you don’t know, I wouldn’t worry very much about it. I’m not friends with anyone on Facebook that I don’t know personally in real life and well enough that I feel okay sharing stuff with them. I think it boils down to teaching kids common sense practices online too, just like we teach them in real life.

  17. Filioque February 21, 2013 at 10:39 am #

    I actually have heard of someone whose house was robbed after they posted on Facebook that they were on vacation. But it turned out that the burglar was one of their own low-life friends. The lesson here is, don’t tell low-lifes in any format that you’re leaving town.

  18. NicoleK February 21, 2013 at 10:47 am #

    How to protect your kid from social media:

    1) Put coat, hat, mittens and boots on kid
    2) Open door
    3) Put kid outside

  19. Emily February 21, 2013 at 11:05 am #

    @NicoleK–What if said kid just pulls an iPhone out of his pocket, or borrows a friend’s smartphone, or goes over to a friend’s house to use their home Internet? There aren’t really a lot of guaranteed ways to keep kids away from the evil social media, although I agree, outside, real-life stimulation does help.

  20. Cynthia812 February 21, 2013 at 11:48 am #

    But…but…but… they might get BULLIED!

    I have learned that you might have to be more explicit with common sense things than you might expect. Of course, my oldest is six,so the type of things I deal with now are “Don’t click on random things on screen,” and “don’t eat your shoelaces”.

    Emily, I agree. I was so irritated when I went to call my kids in from their treehouse and they were up there watching a movie on the neighbor kids’ ipad. Grr.

  21. Sacha February 21, 2013 at 11:50 am #

    Recently I attended a field trip with my son’s Grade 6 class to a police interpretive center. It was a great experience but I disagreed with their internet safety section. The person who was in charge of this area first walked the kids through some examples of Facebook pages that shared too much information and then went on to say that they should never talk to anyone online that they don’t know.
    My son is an avid computer game player and has built up quite a network of “friends” via Skype even though he has met none of them in real life. We have gone over our version of internet safety and he knows that he needs to let me know if someone ever says anything inappropriate to him online and that he should never agree to meet someone in real life that he has met online without parental supervision.
    I think that it is great that he is able to develop online friendships with children in other countries. Not every online person is a pedophile in disguise just like not every stranger is out to hurt you.

  22. CM February 21, 2013 at 12:10 pm #

    To me, social media crosses a privacy line that is beyond a basic free range issue, and more of a personal rights issue. The companies running those apps right now have more rights to your personal info than the government. I feel that is way more predatory than the trolls and bullies that my kids may or may not come across online.

    What the internet does offer, though, is instant access to communities of like minded people, and if that helps my kids fit it, I will be happy to let them discover that they are not alone, privacy be damned.

  23. Emily February 21, 2013 at 12:13 pm #

    @Cynthia–On the bright side, your kids are at least playing in a treehouse (bonus points if they built, or helped build, said treehouse), and they’re interacting with the neighbour kids. For them to be watching a movie on the neighbour kids’ iPad, they’d have to be able to get along with each other, make friends with those kids, and invite them into their treehouse, and all collectively decide what movie to watch, and deal with little annoyances that come up–holding/propping the iPad so everyone can see, pausing the movie when someone has to go to the bathroom, etc. They also get to learn bargaining, which is an important life skill as well–in this case, it’s “We’ll share our treehouse, if you share your iPad,” and that achieves a kind of symbiosis–the kids with the treehouse, get the benefit of the use of the iPad to watch a movie on, and the kids with the iPad get to watch their movie inside the treehouse, instead of having to sit on the ground, or deal with the sun’s glare on the iPad screen. So, they may not be getting the physical benefits of, say, running around and playing a game of freeze tag, but they’re at least learning social skills, even if it’s around an iPad.

  24. Stephanie February 21, 2013 at 12:17 pm #

    Sacha, that’s how I handle it too. My kids have just started using site that allow them to make online friends, and they just have rules for what information they can share. It’s pretty easy so far. All our computers are in common areas of the house, so I can see what’s going on if I want… which hasn’t been an issue yet.

  25. Sean Dougherty February 21, 2013 at 12:32 pm #

    I have a section in my blog called “Panic in the Streets” devoted to news articles that decry some great danger of which the reporter couldn’t find a single example.

    Many of them are this kind of pitch – if you post vacation photos on Facebook, burglars will rob your house before you get back. Except nobody can ever find someone to which that has happened.

    I also shudder at the prospect of a PR person being stupid enough to send THAT pitch to YOU.

    I mean, your brand isn’t exactly obscure.

  26. Mike C February 21, 2013 at 12:46 pm #

    I was part of a multi-user chat BBS in the days before the Web, and we’d all meet up in person once a week as a big group, as well as meeting up in smaller groups of two or more for coffee / parties / whathaveyou the rest of the week. We were a fairly large community with new faces coming and going all the time, ranging in age from 12 to 52, and we all met online. Sometimes a parent would tag along, but that was the exception more than the rule, and we never had a problem. The youngest members of the group grew up just fine and have their own families and kids now.

  27. Donna February 21, 2013 at 12:53 pm #

    So the suggestion is that if I post on Facebook that I am on vacation or out to dinner, my FRIENDS will come rob me? What kind of friends does this author have?

    Because there are only two scenarios here since I don’t actually publish my address on my Facebook page (I don’t even have an address). One, that a friend – a person who already knows where I live – sees my post and comes to rob me. Or, two, that a stranger- who knows nothing more than I live in Pago Pago – somehow sees my post, flies to A. Samoa, and what … drives around questioning people until he happens to find someone who knows me and can direct him to my house?

    People seem to think that criminals will go to some extraordinary lengths to steal stuff that is in just about every house in the country. Unless you keep things like surface-to-air missiles in your house, I just don’t think the expense of traveling many miles to rob your house is going to pay off.

  28. hineata February 21, 2013 at 12:58 pm #

    I sometimes wish kids would be protected from some aspects of social media, but then that, as it has always been, is a decision for parents and kids to make together. Though it would be good if some parents paid a little more attention to the age restrictions on this sort of thing.

    Yesterday my brightest wee student, a six-year old with the most innocent-looking puppy dog eyes, explained to me that a contract ( we were signing ‘behaviour contracts’, simply a fancy form of class rules) was something you take out on someone you don’t like, and the other word for it was ‘hit’. And it always involved guns. Also that slots and poker were major parts of casinos, and that he wanted to go to Las Vegas. He lives in a poorer suburb of what many of you here would regard as a tiny city at the bottom of the South Pacific, and at six he already knows what Las Vegas is.

    He learnt all this playing some kind of slots game on his Facebook page. Sigh.

    (His parents are lovely, just younger than me and making different decisions about some things than I personally would make. Also, I am not certain, from conversations I have had with them, that either of them quite grasp just how bright their son actually is.)

    At least. I suppose, the other kids learnt something from him, which is the purpose of schooling. I am just glad I wasn’t there having to explain when they all got home last night and asked why they weren’t allowed Facebook, and where could they find someone to take a contract out on their siblings!

  29. Brooks February 21, 2013 at 1:30 pm #

    There are actually quite a number of Facebook-inspired robberies, but at least in my area, they were all perpetrated by friends of friends on FB, mostly kids, out for a cheap thrill. I wouldn’t normally post info about a vacation till after it’s over, but that’s only to make sure I actually had something worthwhile to say about it first.

  30. Michael February 21, 2013 at 2:16 pm #

    I am not fond of all the social media out there and definitely would not recommend kids using them too often or even at all but online predators and burglars do not figure into it as far as I am concerned. I just think it is far more healthy to actually communicate with someone face to face and have actual friends who have to do more than click a link to “unfriend” you.

    As for the burglars. Simply take the pictures of the inside of your home but reverse them with photoshop or somehthing. That way, a burglar thinking a left turn from the kitchen will take him to the living room with all its riches it will actually take him right into the laundryroom! Desperation from the confusion will probably lead him to turn himself or herself in. Clever huh? 😉

  31. Stafir February 21, 2013 at 2:55 pm #

    For the sake of it, when I learned to use the net I took a few things to heart..and they are things I think should apply to everyone as a sort of ‘common sense’ thing. Some of these are defunct/need to be altered due to social media..but I don’t really use social media so they work for me. But…my suggestion on tips for kids and online. Of course all of these have a caveat of ‘use common sense’ as truly mastering a rule…also means you know when to break the rule.

    I will admit some of these are probably too strict for proper free range..but I was raised paranoid as heck…so yeah.

    1: Never use your RL name in any shape or form online. If you want something consistent then create a name you like to go by and use that as your ‘online point of contact’.

    2: To that point, assume everyone else is following rule 1. Everyone you meet online is using an assumed name, maybe even an assumed gender.

    3: If someone asks you to share personal information. Don’t do it. No name, no age, no location (other than generalized…like USA (or a state), or country of origin etc). If they constantly insist on this information, break contact with them.

    4: If you must talk about local events then generalize the name of the locations. Things like ‘at the mall’ or ‘at the sports shop’. Only name a locations name if its a chain (such as Wal-Mart). Don’t give a locations address.

    5: Only talk about things you own/money your family has if its pertinent to the conversation. And be stingy giving out such information. If you’re playing a game online, of course giving out information of your setup relating to the game makes sense. Or if you’re discussing favorite toys, etc. But try to keep on topic. There is rarely a reason to discuss money, if someone insists on it, ask a parent to read with you as it is their money.

    6: If someone wants to meet you in life, do not reveal any information before discussing such things with your parents. It may be better to have your parents contact the friend you with to meet with (or their parents). When meeting for the first time, do so in an area both of you will feel safe in, and that is public. If possible make this a group thing, your family meets their family..or you both bring some friends you know for a group activity.

    That really covers most of it…I keep feeling like I have more..but its mostly been ‘be careful with what you tell others, reveal as little personal information as possible’. And when meeting others, make sure it happens in a public place and that some friends know you’re going there and/or are going with you.

    But again..I’ll admit I was raised paranoid and a mess of stuff on facebook, youtube, et al really really surprises me with what people reveal, so my view of things might be…colored.

  32. Incunabulum February 21, 2013 at 3:09 pm #

    “I just love the idea of an intruder intently studying the photos of your ranch house”

    My home is decently sized 4-bedroom – and its basically an L-shape.

    I don’t think many homes have a floorplan of any complexity.

  33. lollipoplover February 21, 2013 at 3:25 pm #

    And then there’s people posting this on Facebook.

    While I don’t agree that she endangered minors by introducing lap dancing, who seriously has exotic dancers at a bowling alley for a party and posts it?!

  34. Chihiro February 21, 2013 at 3:29 pm #

    I found a study a while ago that showed that a majority of online predators that actually attempted to contact/potentially kidnap anybody they met online were actually undercover cops. I think it’s a safe bet that internet creepers will usually stay that way-on the internet.
    Also, if people used their common sense, they would use their privacy settings so only their friends (People they actually know in real life) can see their photos.

  35. LRH February 21, 2013 at 4:21 pm #

    Yes it is silly isn’t it. It’s like what Lenore said in that one posting about needing permission to take photos at a play etc–people somehow have this irrational idea that if your child’s photo somehow ends up anywhere other than on your mantel that somehow it endangers them.

    99½% of the time it’s nothing but a bunch of blah blah blah, and 99½% is close enough to 100% I’ll take it anytime.


  36. pentamom February 21, 2013 at 4:27 pm #

    Really, how many variations are there on “kitchen and living room next to each other near the front entrance, bedrooms down the hall or upstairs, and family room downstairs”?

    Sure, not every house follows exactly that plan, but is it really common to have the kitchen upstairs and the bedroom by the front door, thus confounding the would-be burglar who is not fortunate enough to have studied up in advance?

  37. marie February 21, 2013 at 5:16 pm #

    When my daughter first got an email address, she came to me with an invitation she’d gotten from a friend to join a social site. I don’t remember the name of the site. The invitation came with a link to her friend’s profile so I clicked it. Her friend, following instructions to “be someone else” online, had registered herself as Elaine, age 47. She didn’t want any perverts trying to seduce her online! The trouble was that her profile was so darned cute, with her favorite movies and music, that there was absolutely no one who would have believed that Elane was older than 11 years old.

    After I finished laughing at her attempt to protect herself by posting her age as 47, I clicked around at some of the other profiles. I’d say it took me fewer than ten clicks to happen onto something that no 11 year old needed to see.

    The danger on the internet isn’t that our kids will be seduced or abducted or targeted or that our homes will be burglarized, the danger is that our kids will happen onto information or images that they don’t have the maturity to process. It will happen, just as I was shown a Playgirl magazine centerfold long before I should have seen it when I was small.

    The best we parents can do is to give our kids the ability to come to us with questions without us panicking.

  38. Gina February 21, 2013 at 5:31 pm #

    @Sascha and Stephanie–Just to let you know, I had the same general convo with all of my kids when they were younger and now as young adults they are very internet savvy and know when something doesn’t seem right. It’s all about giving them tools to make good choices…not making choices for them. And it works!

  39. Peter February 21, 2013 at 5:33 pm #

    So many of these security tips oddly assume that absolutely everyone […] 3) doesn’t know how to set their settings so that they’re not advertising their location to complete strangers.

    This isn’t as odd as it sounds. Especially with Facebook.

    Actually, my recent favorite was “before posting pictures of your nice stuff, make sure that you’ve removed the GPS coordinates that your smartphone probably added.”

  40. Beth February 21, 2013 at 5:36 pm #

    My belief is that I’m only a teeny tiny speck in the Facebook sea. Even if my privacy settings are hacked, or something, I am not on the radar of any criminal’s world and no one has chosen ME, on vacation, to be their burglary target.

  41. Yan Seiner February 21, 2013 at 5:46 pm #

    @marie: “The danger on the internet isn’t that our kids will be seduced or abducted or targeted or that our homes will be burglarized, the danger is that our kids will happen onto information or images that they don’t have the maturity to process.”

    As you say, that will happen regardless. At a friend’s house, or through an innocent redirect, or through an honest google search. (I was searching for info on Madagascar palms and hit a bunch of S&M sites; apparently the oil from those palms is used to make S&M candles. Go figure.)

    We need to give kids the coping tools and the ability to say, “Oops, I don’t need to be here” without fear. It’s only when we insist on “protecting” our kids that they grow up without the filters they need to process that information. It’s even worse when we prohibit them from going there.

    Anyway, we talked to our kids about all of the “predator” dangers, and basically told them they’re on their own and be responsible. So far it’s worked.

    Oh, and our kids have heard the “stranger danger” meme so much it’s become a joke in their generation. They use it to indicate that adults are being idiots. Imagine that.

  42. Tsu Dho Nimh February 21, 2013 at 6:01 pm #

    @Sean Dougherty – “Many of them are this kind of pitch – if you post vacation photos on Facebook, burglars will rob your house before you get back. Except nobody can ever find someone to which that has happened.

    The worst problems are when teens post party information and way too many people show up. Especially if the parents are out of town.

    Or someone posts a brag photo about their cool WhizBang2000, and an acquaintance of theirs decides to take it.

  43. Emily February 21, 2013 at 9:28 pm #

    About the idea of “protecting kids from things no one under X age should see,” I think that’s kind of funny, because when I was a pre-teen/young teen, home Internet was in its infancy, but I still learned everything I needed to know (and plenty of things I probably didn’t) from the playground, summer camp, and various teenage magazines. Sure, I didn’t have a world of porn and S&M content at my fingertips, but even when my family got decent Internet, so I theoretically had access to inappropriate things, I didn’t go looking for anything I shouldn’t. The only things I really used the Internet for back then were connecting with my friends via e-mail and MSN, research for school, and possibly visiting a certain Harry Potter fan site that’s probably long since disbanded.

  44. B February 21, 2013 at 9:58 pm #

    What? Don’t post pics of the interior of your house or it might be robbed, its a layout for would-be intruders?

    The shelter magazines are full of pics that say, “Don’t I look expensive.”

    That’s just silly.

  45. Violet February 21, 2013 at 10:07 pm #

    I think parents do need to be reminded to watch their kids online habits. I have had to message a few friends about their kids on facebook. My favorite was when a sixteen-year-old cousin was having his birthday party at his aunt’s house. He gave the address and asked who was bringing the drugs. SMH.

  46. Dirge February 22, 2013 at 9:18 am #

    I’m of the opinion that if I get robbed, so be it. Nothing I truly value would ever be taken, because it is not worth anything to anybody but me. I can easily replace electronics and my computer is so old, I doubt it would even be worth taking.

  47. JR February 22, 2013 at 9:34 am #

    As a mom of a disabled adult (adopted at age 2 with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome), I will differ with you just to say that there ARE dangers on the internet (especially for the disabled). My son (by age 13) was quick to set up PayPal accounts, quick to learn about disgusting porn sites and quick to find prostitution social networking sites (yes, with GPS services)! We were scrambling to keep up, since we never knew such things existed. We also have 3 younger biological sons who do not do these things, so just wanted to mention that organic brain damage before birth can actually make the internet dangerous. Of course I love your message overall and agree that kids need to make their mistakes and learn from them. But for those who might not have the capacity to learn, it is a different story.

  48. pentamom February 22, 2013 at 10:10 am #

    Peter — I know not everyone sets their privacy settings properly. But what I was saying that is that articles like that assume that EVERYONE doesn’t know how to do it, not that not everyone does.

    The advice “never post anything indicating you’re away from home” assumes that everyone’s settings are incorrect, when actually, people whose settings are correct and who don’t have complete strangers or likely criminals as their Facebook friends ought to be free to admit that they’re not home 24/7, using common sense (as opposed to my example of announcing you’ll be away for a month with your home unattended.)

    The advice “make sure your settings are correct” assumes that maybe not everyone’s are, which is fair. The advice to act as though every criminal in the world has access to your Facebook assumes that everyone’s ARE incorrect. That’s the difference.

  49. Amanda Matthews February 22, 2013 at 11:22 am #

    “Some precious things now gone forever.”

    I don’t know, I figure anything worth stealing is easily replaceable. The irreplaceable stuff is only precious to ME and no one is going to bother to steal them. Considering material items precious is just setting yourself up for hurt, when those material items get lost or stolen or most likely, break or stop working.

    If my computer is stolen, I have all pictures on there backed up, so I can just buy a new computer, and re-download all the pictures. Sure, I’ve got a lot of money worth of games on my computer, but most of them are through Steam, so I can just download them again. It’s inconvenient, and I’d be mad, but I wouldn’t have lost anything precious.

    Really, internet burglars (since there are so many of you out there supposedly watching), I’d prefer you come when I’m not home, so that the people that are precious to me aren’t hurt.

    As for “information or images that they don’t have the maturity to process”, I have found that if a kid isn’t mature enough to process information or an image that they come across, they simply DON’T process it. It’s the same as when you are an adult, if you learn a new word or phrase, you suddenly start noticing it all around – it was always there before, you just didn’t process it. If a kid comes across porn when they’re trying to find Sesame Street games, they simply click the back button and get back on track to what they were looking for.

    It is only once they ARE mature enough to process things that they actually notice them, it’s just that their parents don’t realize they’ve become mature enough to process it. And it is once they become mature enough to process it that they begin to seek them out, even though they’ll tell their parents that they stumbled on it accidentally.

    I don’t limit my kids’ internet access*, and they have managed to never accidentally stumble upon information or images they don’t have the maturity to process. It’s easy to find when you’re seeking it out, sure; but if you’re lying about your age to get onto an adult site, I would say you are seeking out adult content, so you can’t really be surprised when you find different adult content on that site.

    *Admittedly I did put a buying password on my Kindle Fire, but the kids all know the password; it’s just there to separate what is free and what is paid, as that can be difficult to figure out on the Kindle Fire, so that no one accidentally buys anything they thought was free (though *I* am the only one that has actually done that).

  50. Emily February 22, 2013 at 12:23 pm #

    @Violet–I don’t think a sixteen-year-old is much of a “child” anymore. If a sixteen-year-old is hosting drug parties when his or her parents are out of town, then it doesn’t much matter if the advertising/inviting is done online, by word of mouth, or whatever–people will find out, and chaos will ensue. I don’t know if anyone remembers, but this basic storyline (with or without the drugs) has been played out on many, many TV shows aimed at young people, even before the advent of the Internet. So, in that case, scrutininzing a sixteen-year-old’s online activity probably wouldn’t do much, because it’d just cut off one means of communication, when there are still many, many others, including the phone, word of mouth, Internet at school/a friend’s house/the public library, or the old-school method of passing notes in class while the teacher’s back is turned: “Party at Britney’s house, Saturday 8 p.m., pass it on.” Presto, thirty kids get the message within five or ten minutes, they leave class, and by the end of the day, the whole school knows.

  51. Emily February 22, 2013 at 12:43 pm #

    P.S., I don’t know if I’ve entirely made my point, but what I was trying to say is, by the time a young person is sixteen their parents should be pretty much finished with “parenting,” at least as far as discipline, and teaching good behaviour/manners/safety/values goes. At that point, pretty much all that’s left is driver’s ed, getting into college/university, and the talk about birth control, if the kid hasn’t figured it out from school, the Internet, or Cosmo Girl Magazine or similar. So, if a teenager is so out of control that he or she is throwing wild parties with drugs in his or her parents’ absence, then clearly, for whatever reason, that child didn’t learn those basic values earlier in life. Maybe the parents didn’t try to teach them, or maybe they did, but they just didn’t “take.” I’m not saying it’s impossible to turn it around at that late stage, but it’s much more difficult.

  52. Becca in Alaska February 22, 2013 at 2:44 pm #

    The no posting of pictures reminds me of the inspection we had from the fire marshall as part of our home study for adopting. We were told that we had to have a map of the house, both levels, marked with “emergency exit routes” hanging in the kitchen. You know just in case our kids don’t know where the front and back doors are or how to get there.

  53. Donna February 22, 2013 at 5:57 pm #

    “So, if a teenager is so out of control that he or she is throwing wild parties with drugs in his or her parents’ absence, then clearly, for whatever reason, that child didn’t learn those basic values earlier in life.”

    While I completely agree with everything else you said, I disagree with this 100%. Everybody I knew in high school, including me, threw parties involving alcohol, and possibly pot depending on the group, when the parents went out of town. We were all fine, upstanding, good students who grew into fully responsible, contributing members of society. Heck, our Beta Club (honor society) got suspended during senior year. Something involving alcohol and poker at a retreat of some sort (I wasn’t there). This included the class valedictorian who had to serve her suspension after she returned from her interview at Princeton (she got in and attended).

  54. Emily February 22, 2013 at 8:04 pm #

    @Donna–Okay, fair point. I guess what I meant to say was, if a teenager is inclined to throw wild parties in his or her parents’ absence, then they may have been raised properly, but some other force–peer pressure, desire to be accepted, curiosity, the perceived “uncoolness” of adults, or something of the sort, is, in that moment, more powerful than the infinite number of “don’t do drugs,” “getting drunk isn’t cool,” and “stand up for what’s right” messages that teenager may have received growing up. In that case, cutting off Internet access isn’t going to stop that teenager from initiating or attending said wild alcohol and drug party–it’ll still happen; it’ll just be advertised by phone, word of mouth, a handwritten note passed in math class, or a computer/Internet source outside the Internetless teenager’s home.

    P.S., Just for the record, I don’t think teenagers are alone in not always following the “lessons” they learned growing up. For example, a lot of adults drink to shut out their problems, or buy fancy tchotchkes they can’t afford so they can feel better about themselves, or scarf down McDonald’s in the car because they don’t want to be bothered cooking, while the laundry piles up on idle basement treadmill, or they’ll cheat on their partners because it’s easier than discussing what’s really wrong in their marriage. Really, no matter what age someone is, if they want to indulge their vices, they’ll probably find a way to do so, as long as their desire to do the wrong thing, is stronger than their resolve to do the right thing.

  55. Lisa February 22, 2013 at 11:27 pm #

    IMO, the “dangers” of social networking have little to do with predators or burglars. My daughter is too young for Facebook, but by the time she’s 13 and can get an account (several years away, so I’m sure it will be a different site by then), what I want her to know is that something put online is out there FOREVER, and that she should never write anything that she doesn’t want the world to know. I also want her to know that the language she uses (profanity, misspelled words, terrible grammar, vulgarity) tells the world something about the kind of person she is and what she values. I don’t feel like I need to “protect” her from it, but I do feel it’s my job to educate her about it. I always remind young adults that they wouldn’t be proud to have a current or future employer see. That doesn’t mean keeping postings professional (my Facebook page is for my personal life, and I use it for that). It *does* mean, for example – posting vacation photos is ok, but posting half-clothed drunken photos is not. Posting information that only friends will care about is ok, as is posting that it’s been a tough day… but bashing your employer is not.
    And yes, I’d say the 16 year old posting about her party needs some education. Even if one thinks it’s ok, or inevitable, that teenagers will have parties with alcohol and drugs, I think it’s a real problem that they put that online. Do you think college admissions officers don’t look? Guess again.
    I’ve often typed a status update, paused, and asked “is that really how I want to be seen?” It’s that pause that kids sometimes need help learning. I don’t think that’s helicopter parenting; I think letting them use the tools available to their generation, and helping them to understand the strengths and the drawbacks of those tools, is part of our job as parents.
    My “fear” about web browsing doesn’t have much to do with her possibly seeing inappropriate content. I was mostly afraid of her clicking on links that would mess up my computer. I also worried that she wouldn’t do a very good job determining what information was credible. Our talk about web browsing focused mostly on how to search, and how to decide which results to go to and which to trust. I think there is a legitimate worry that kids will click bad links, and/or portray themselves online in a way that is not how they want to be seen. Banning the internet is excessive; having conversations about it and sharing experiences is good. The “all or nothing” attitude towards parenting decisions is going to make us all crazy.

  56. Donna February 23, 2013 at 1:28 am #

    I do think we also need to teach kids about the possible repercussions of what they do online. For example, sending a boyfriend a sexy picture. I’m not even worried about my daughter in this case. I’ll assume that her boyfriends will be nice kids who would never pass sexy pictures of her around, but it still may be illegal for him to possess them and get him into a ton of legal trouble if found. I may not like the state of the law on this issue but it is what it is until we can get it changed. My daughter needs to make decisions that consider the repercussions on others and that includes her decisions about what to do on internet/cellphone and even who to have sex with.

  57. Yan Seiner February 23, 2013 at 10:09 am #

    @Lisa: Exactly. We had this talk early on. My kids were like “but my privacy settings let only my friends see my stuff”. Fortunately Facebook suffered one its major security compromises about then, so I showed them the article, and we went through the whole thing of “nothing on the web is private, ever, and it’s there for ever.”

    My rules for them were, and still are, “Never post anything that you will have to explain to me in the principal’s office.” So far, so good, they’re both good kids.

  58. Library Diva February 24, 2013 at 4:04 pm #

    @Lisa, a lot of adults could use that lesson, too. I have a FB friend who I graduated high school with. She has just found a job after long-term unemployment, and two weeks in, is already posting some seriously-not-smart stuff about it. There has never seemed to be any filter whatsoever between her brain and her fingers.

    Personally, I don’t post anything about my job that could even be remotely construed as negative. Not even “Wish I was home in bed instead of at my desk” “Too much to do, too little time,” or any other sentiment that everyone who has ever worked has shared. I generally don’t write about my job on Facebook at all.

    I think any time a new technology comes out, it becomes the subject of a lot of fear. If you ever watch Twilight Zone, notice how many of them involve commercial air travel, which was pretty new when that series was on television. When Walkmans first came out, there was widespread concern that myentire generation would go deaf before 20. When cell phones were new, they were linked to brain tumors. These articles are part of human nature, I think.

    The “home layout” tip was just ridiculous, though. You’d have to post lots and lots of photos before anyone could figure that out. And as others have pointed out, maybe if you live in a 50-room mansion, that’s a concern, but your average home or apartment has only so many configurations and the types of spaces are pretty universal: somewhere to cook/eat, somewhere to bathe and relieve oneself, somewhere to hang out, and several spaces in which to sleep.

  59. Nic February 24, 2013 at 6:19 pm #

    Until your child is being “groomed’ by an online predator, you might not think that it is such a risk being on facebook or skype. And no teenagers don’t always tell, no matter how well you have raised them, and how usually honest they are. They are clever, they are out there, and some people need to get their heads out of the sand. It’s not a joke. This is a vehicle predators use, finding kids through game chats, then friending them on facebook or other social media. Fake names, fake ages, encouraging your kids to do what they normally wouldn’t, including opening up more than on email or fb account to keep their conversations private. And what you see on fb isn’t what they’re talking about, it’s all in the messages you don’t see, or the skype they are doing as well. They’re very good at manipulating the conversation to elicity photographs and information, things they wouldn’t do in face to face dealings with their real friends. If you don’t want your kids to be victims you need to have the talks, you need access to their information online, and their passwords. You don’t have to be a voyeur into their lives, but you do have to know what the signs are. Google it.

  60. ebohlman February 24, 2013 at 9:58 pm #

    Nic: A few years back an internet-safety task force put together by all 50 US state Attorneys General concluded that the type of grooming you describe was so rare as to be almost nonexistent. Almost all the cases of adults sexually soliciting minors involved minors (or decoy cops) advertising their own sexuality and being the first to bring up provocative topics. They all involved teenage girls, not tweens or kids.

    So there’s a real problem, but it’s not as widespread as most people think it is and more importantly it’s not where most people think it is. The study showed that the most susceptible victims were girls who felt lonely and unloved and had a history of sexually acting out. Those are the kids at whom protective efforts need to be aimed (as well as addressing the underlying problems that are causing them to behave that way). Everybody else is at least as safe online as they are offline.

  61. Donna February 25, 2013 at 12:49 am #

    The county I worked in in Georgia had one of an internet predator task forces. It is a complete sham. It is exactly how ebohlman describes – an police officer posing as a teen goes into an ADULT (need to assert you are over 18) chat room and puts “herself” out there. In every single case I worked on, the “girl” was the first to bring up sex, send sexy pictures and request a meeting.

  62. kc February 25, 2013 at 9:03 am #

    Well that’s a bit weird and excessive. The internet is a wonderful place and while yes, there are downsides (mostly hackers, viruses) it’s really not that scary for kids.

    Kids are more likely to be assaulted by people known by them than random strangers online.

    Unless you are posting your expensive jewellery/valuables collection online for the world to see, I really don’t think it affects your chance of being robbed.

    Kids are not as stupid as people think they are. Sometimes they may make stupid mistakes but I think the main dangers of facebook for teens are – publicly inviting gatecrashers to your home party and posting inappropriate photos you will later regret

  63. Bob Davis February 27, 2013 at 1:13 am #

    Just another reason for me to be glad that when my daughters were growing up, all we had was a rotary-dial telephone in the kitchen. Regarding household security–unless one lives in Beverly Hills or San Marino, or is known for having a collection of expensive coins, guns or art works, the typical burglar isn’t going to be doing Internet research–he’s just going to be looking for an unlocked door or window.

  64. Rainey Daye February 27, 2013 at 1:21 pm #

    Haha…the pics of the house part cracks me up!! I JUST updated my Facebook photo album of a walk through of our house cause we switched the guest bedroom out for a “big boy” room for our little dude so that we can get his old room fixed up for his baby sis, who is due here in a few weeks. I even put descriptors on the photos…like “The door to the right is the laundry room and the door to the left goes into Bug’s room” and then I actually have pics of Bug’s room on there!! But then again, I have my privacy settings for only friends, and as far as I know, I have no known criminals or druggies as friends who would come rob me…nor do I have much of value in the house since we are fairly minimalist (unless someone wants a six year old flat screen that requires two people to mount it to the wall))!! Ooh, I forgot I have the pics on Flickr as well…but there is no connection there between my account and my real name or address!!

    Granted, I guess I DO take a few precautions…just because. I don’t post about out of town trips till they are over, though most people who actually know us know we do go out of town to visit family for holidays usually. I did black out our house number and our license plate number on a publicly posted photo of the front of our house. I use a made up online name for everything except Facebook…but I do have a link from my blog to my Facebook page and my first name is posted in one spot on my blog, so things aren’t a total secret. We have discussed using pseudonyms for the various families last names on my blog, but they simply just aren’t mentioned often enough to warrant going back and changing them.

    Now, I DO use nicknames for the kiddos. My little boy is Bug and our soon-to-be-born little girl is Sweetpea. I tend to use first initials for Bug’s little friends and nicknames for his cousins. This isn’t so much though for their present day safety from random people (you know, the predators hiding behind every bush waiting for a chance to snatch them…haha!!)…but more for them as they grow up in an increasingly less private world. I don’t want future playground bullies being able to google them and then tease them about silly things they said or did as small children, such as mispronouncing words or taking forever to potty train or the like. But yeah…that is pretty much the extent of my precautions.

  65. Jenn March 22, 2013 at 8:46 am #

    You can only do so much to protect your children. I didn’t need to be told not to give out my address or phone number, etc when using the internet. It was a common sense thing. But even after getting the safety lecture, one of my clueless siblings would and did.

    Yeah, publicly posting “we’re out of town” probably isn’t the best idea, but unless you’re doing things like “checking in” at your actual house address, you probably have very little to worry about. You’d have to be very familiar with the area to track it down, especially since so many communities are just track houses now.

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