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Email, chat, IM, video calling and texting are fast and convenient ways to communicate. But the fundamentals — what we say, when we say it, and why we say it — are the same online and off. Common courtesy and common sense are important parts of all communication, regardless of where and how it takes place.
What can you do?
Talk to your kids about online manners.
- Politeness counts. You teach your kids to be polite offline; talk to them about being courteous online as well. Texting may seem fast and impersonal, yet courtesies like “pls” and “ty” (for please and thank you) are common text terms.
- Tone it down. Using all caps, long rows of exclamation points, or large bolded fonts are the online equivalent of yelling. Most people don’t appreciate a rant.
- Cc: and Reply all: with care. Suggest that your kids resist the temptation to send a message to everyone on their contact list.
- Avoid chain letters. Most chain letters or emails are nuisances at best, and scams at worst. Many carry viruses or spyware. Ask your kids not to open or forward them.
Set high privacy preferences on your kids’ IM and video calling accounts.
Most IM programs allow parents to control whether people on their kids’ contact list can see their IM status, including whether they’re online. Some IM and email accounts allow parents to determine who can send their kids messages, and block anyone not on the list.
Ask your kids who they’re in touch with online.
Just as you want to know who your kids’ friends are offline, it’s a good idea to know who they’re talking to online.
Talk to your kids about using strong email passwords and protecting them.
The longer the password, the harder it is to crack. Personal information, your login name, common words, or adjacent keys on the keyboard are not safe passwords. Kids can protect their passwords by not sharing them with anyone, including their friends.
Remind your kids to protect their personal information.
Social Security numbers, account numbers, and passwords are examples of information to keep private.
Phishing is when scam artists send text, email, or pop-up messages to get people to share their personal and financial information. Then they use the information to commit identity theft.
Here’s how you — and your kids — can avoid a phishing scam:
- Don’t reply to text, email, or pop-up messages that ask for personal or financial information, and don’t click any links in the message. Resist the urge to cut and paste a link from the message into your web browser, too. If you want to check a financial account, for example, type in the web address from your billing statement.
- Don’t give personal information on the phone in response to a text message. Some scammers send text messages that appear to be from a legitimate business, and ask you to call a phone number to update your account or access a “refund.” If you give them your information, they use it to run up charges in your name.
- Be cautious about opening any attachment or downloading any files from emails you receive, regardless of who sent them. Unexpected files may contain viruses or spyware that the sender doesn’t even know are there.
- Use security software, and update it regularly.
- Read your mail; review credit card and bank account statements as soon as you get them to check for unauthorized charges.
- Forward phishing emails to firstname.lastname@example.org — and to the company, bank, or organization impersonated in the phishing email. You also may want to report phishing email to the Anti-Phishing Working Group at email@example.com.
- Get your kids involved in these activities, too, so they can develop good internet security habits. Look for “teachable moments” — if you get a phishing message, show it to your kids to help them understand that messages on the internet aren’t always what they seem.
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