Parents are accustomed to protecting their children from various dangers because the world is no longer like the one Andy Griffith protected in Mayberry. Social networking and the internet have opened an entirely new world where parents must protect their children. Dangers range from cyber bullying to sexual predators and parents must be on guard at all times to protect their children. However, there is another danger that is surfacing on social networks such as Facebook that can harm your children’s future – – financial predators. Adults have lapses of judgment when it comes to posting things online that they should not or giving information that should be kept private to complete strangers so why should we expect children to know how to protect themselves. Parents need to be aware of the financial dangers of Facebook and other social network sites and take steps to protect their child’s financial future.
Three Financial Dangers of Facebook
Overspending – Many parents may not be aware that sites like Facebook are filled with advertisements for games and other items that entice users to spend money. Kids often purchase virtual items to send to online friends or buy credits to advance faster in online games. Items can be paid with PayPal accounts, credit cards, debit cards and some can even be charged to cell phone accounts. Parents need to explain to their child that purchasing things online requires the same permission they must obtain before purchasing something at the store. Parents should make sure that they do not allow their child to have access to their account information and passwords to prevent them from making purchases online. It is important that parents discuss with their children that online spending can easily get out of hand and that small purchases add up to a big bill quickly.
Identity Theft – It is difficult for some adults to understand how posting their birth date and address can provide enough information for a thief to steal their identity let alone a child make this connection. However, the sad truth is that thieves love to prey on children online by using games, surveys and quizzes to pull personal information out of them. A child may not understand how a fun game that asks simple questions such as your mother’s maiden name, your pet’s name and your hometown can give information to a thief to steal their identity or yours for that matter. Thieves use phishing software attached to games to get your information so be sure to keep your antivirus and anti-malware updated. Make sure that the security settings for your child’s profile is set to friends only.
Damaged reputations – Adults would do well to heed this advice too – – never post anything online that you do not want your priest, grandmother or employer to see. Even though you can erase or delete a post from your Facebook profile, you never know who might have snapped a picture of that page before you came to your senses and deleted the picture or post. Caution children that things that seem harmless can actually damage their reputation. More colleges and employers are beginning to use social networks to screen applicants in addition to the normal application process. Begin teaching your child now that some things are not appropriate to post online, personal pictures are better kept private and what they say now may follow them forever. Review your child’s Facebook profile with him or her and point out posts and pictures that are inappropriate and explain how this may hurt them with prospective employers or colleges. Teach them how to “untag” themselves from photos that show irresponsible behavior or choices.
This may be an unpopular suggestion; however, I will share it with the hope that it will help protect some children from harm online. If your young child wants to have a Facebook or other social network profile, you need to have the login and password to review his or her profile periodically and check who they have “friended.” Some of my friends accuse me of invading my child’s privacy; however, I ask them if they would drop their eight-year-old child off in a park full of strangers and leave them alone for hours? By not keeping a very careful eye on your child’s Facebook profile, you are essentially inviting strangers into your child’s life unsupervised.