Monday, January 28, 2008

Parent Trap

Parent Trap

A new web warning for families. More and more parents are getting burned when their kids spill family secrets online.

year old Shannon knows the drill: Anything she posts on social
networking sites can come back to haunt her when she applies for
college or a job.

Now, there's a new twist to the warning.

"I had no idea that things I post on the internet could come back to hurt my family, not just me," Shannon admits.

Many families are getting hurt according to internet safety expert Parry Aftab.

represented a lot of parents who've come to me when they have been
fired, they've been demoted, or they've been called on the carpet
because of what their kids posted online," Attab said.

Aftab says many teens still don't get it, that their posts on networking and blogging sites aren't private.

always warn kids never to post anything that parents, principal,
predators can't see. Now, I have to warn them not to post anything that
their parents' boss or anybody in their neighborhood shouldn't be
seeing either," Attab said.

Sgt. Corey MacDonald agrees. He
tours the country speaking about internet safety, and says police and
employers are watching. They look for, and find, all kinds of dirt.

"Whether we're talking about dad's work secrets or problems between mom and dad with their relationship," Sgt. MacDonald said.

We asked him to show us just how easy it is to find incriminating posts. It didn't take long.

only do I have to live with my nagging mom, my dad does drugs. This
person, Tara, says her parents are lazy alcoholics," reads Sgt.

He says it's not hard for police, or employers, to uncover the identity of teens from the details in their profiles.

they have to do is narrow down who this person is that's posting this.
And then, it's relatively easy to search their name on one of the
online search sites and find out who their family is," Sgt. MacDonald

They're also getting a lot of anonymous tips. Some
posts are leading to arrests like the case of a boy who boasted online
about his mother buying a keg for his underage friends!

"This is a much bigger problem than people are aware of," Aftab points out.

Aftab says even innocent-sounding news can do damage.

may be talking about how their father is losing a job, and perhaps a
neighbor who's the mortgage broker for the father isn't aware that the
father's job is in jeopardy," Attab said.

Experts say it's
critical for parents to talk to their teens about the repercussions of
revealing family business, and make sure they turn on all privacy
settings. Shannon does that, and is careful.

"I use social networking sites to connect with my friends. I leave my family life at home," Shannon says.

A good thing, says mom Margaret who checks Shannon's posts from time to time.

important to know what they're doing and to be able to help them if
they get into trouble. And to keep them safe and, apparently, now we
have to have them keep us safe as well," Margaret says.

than 12 million kids ages 12 to 17 used social networking sites in
August. That's up 15% from the same period last year. Many admit that
have online friends that they've never met. Those friends could, in
fact, be police officers or even their parents' employers!

note about privacy settings: Even if your kids turn their's on when
they send messages and pictures to friends, they have no control over
whether those friends keep their page private. So the images and info
may still get out there.

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