How to Keep Teens from Sharing Too Much Online

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Summer 2014 — Security News and Advice


These days, it's common to see teenagers glued to their computers and devices. They chat with friends, Tweet, snap pictures and “share” just about everything—including their identity information.

In a recent survey1, we found that over half of the teens admitted to posting their email addresses online, while 30% posted their phone numbers and 14% shared their home address.

This is a problem since sharing this sensitive information could give the cybercriminals the clues they need to impersonate you or even steal your identity. Consider this—identity thieves used to search through trash cans, looking for pieces of paper that contained identity information, but now all they have to do is surf online, hoping that people will unwittingly give that information away.

And it appears that teens are good targets, because they already share so much. Nearly half (49%) of the teens we surveyed said that they have regretted something they've posted on social networks, and around 60% admitted to interacting with people they don't know online.

This means that a stranger could see their private information on social networks, or even engage the teen in a conversation to try to lure key information from them.

These risks are concerning, but parents seem to be doing their best to protect their kids. Most of the teens surveyed (80%) said that their parents have had conversations with them about how to stay safe online. And, over half of the teens we talked to even said that they have shared passwords for their computers, mobile devices, or social networking sites, with their parents.

That said, teens would still like to keep their online lives private, and 45% said they would change their online behavior if they knew their parents were watching.

So, it's important that both parents and teens know how to protect identity information and prevent oversharing. Follow these tips to keep you and your loved ones safe:

  • Be cautious with social networks—Social networking sites encourage us to share personal information about ourselves, but be careful not to share too much. Keep key details to yourself, including your home address, employer, phone number, and other information related to your identity.
  • Research your apps before installing—There are a lot of risky apps out there, so make sure you do your homework and read other users’ reviews before installing and app. And, always read the app’s privacy policy to ensure that it’s not asking for more information than it needs to operate.
  • Don’t talk to strangers online—Be wary of emails, or messages from people you don’t know in real life, especially if they ask for your personal details. Even if someone is a friend of a friend, be cautious about what you share.
  • Use security software and keep it up-to-date—Comprehensive security, like that offered by the McAfee LiveSafe™service, can go a long way in improving your Internet security and protecting your identity information. McAfee LiveSafe™ offers anti-virus protection across all of your computers and devices, and includes app protection, a password manager, and the ability to locate your device if it is lost or stolen.

1 2014 Teens and the Screen study: Exploring Online Privacy, Social Networking and Cyberbullying


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