Are Your Kids Inviting Cybercriminals Into Your Home?

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Social media is hard to resist. Not only are your children’s friends using social networking to interact with one another, academic organizations and after-school clubs regularly form their own social networking groups as a means of communication. Whether you like it or not, your kids will be using social media — if they aren’t already — and potentially opening the door to cybercriminals.

Social Media and Youth by the Numbers

According to the Pew Research Center’s Teens Fact Sheet:

.   95 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds are online

.   78 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds own a cell phone; 37 percent of all teens own a smartphone

.   81 percent of online teens use social media; 77 percent use Facebook

.   Other social media sites used by teens include: Twitter (26 percent), Instagram (11 percent), MySpace (7 percent), and YouTube (7 percent)

.   40 percent of teen Facebook users have public Facebook profiles while 60 percent keep them private

So, what are they doing online? Sharing, and some would say, oversharing. 91 percent post photos of themselves, and the selfie craze continues. What’s more, the majority of them are also posting the following information:

.   Their real names on their favored social network (92 percent)

.   Their school name (71 percent)

.   Their city or town (71 percent)

.   Their birth date (82 percent)

.   Their interests (84 percent)

They’re also downloading apps, with 58 percent of them downloading them to their cell phones or tablets.

Addressing Security Concerns 

As a parent, you likely have concerns about sexual predators, cyberbullying, hacking, privacy from marketers, and cybercrime. Teens are simply putting way too much information out there, and much of it is easily discovered by marketers and cybercriminals.

Studies have shown that most people use the same password across most of their accounts. Some use their pet’s name; others use their birth date; others use their school mascot’s name; and so on — all information readily shared by teens on social media sites.

Now, imagine you’re a cybercriminal who has stumbled on a public teen profile. You can easily find out the teen’s name, birthdate, high school, and pet’s name, making cracking his or her password a simple manner. Not only can you hack into the teen’s Facebook account, you could try using that same information to attempt to log in to Gmail, YouTube, online shopping sites, college savings plans, online banking sites, and more.

Social media may seem like fun and games, but there’s clearly a dark side, making it important to address these concerns.

Start by getting a password manager for your entire family to use. Password managers allow for the use of strong, individual passwords for each site without having to remember them. You only have to memorize one master password. Not only do password managers make online life much easier, they add an additional — and important — layer of security to the mix.

Finally, evaluate your teen’s social media presence and initiate a conversation about privacy and oversharing.


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