Loss of money, tarnished reputation and family conflicts – these are just some of the effects of posting personal information online (photos, check-ins, etc.).
The biggest danger lies in the fact that information shared on social networking sites and other public sources is analyzed and used not only by those it was intended for but also by a whole host of complete strangers: advertising agencies, journalists, intelligence services, religious sects, extremist organizations, criminals of all stripes and potential employers.
Everything that you or your children publish online can be used against you – whether it’s an angry post on a random topic, an intimate photo or details of your personal life. It is therefore important for you to remember and to teach your children: before you click that “Publish” button, think about any adverse consequences that may arise from the post in future. Will this information have a negative effect on your or someone else’s personal life? What will a future employer say if they see it? Is it possible to use this information, for example, to track you or your child in the real world?
What you or your child should never post online:
Home address or school. Armed with this information, robbers, pedophiles, bullies and other unsavory characters can easily locate you or your child. Children rarely publish their home address on social networking sites, but every third child names the school they attend.
Phone number. With children, a phone number is a direct means of contact that peers can use for bullying and adults for even more sinister things. For criminals this particular piece of information is among the most valuable data they can get. For example, Kaspersky Lab specialists recently discovered a fraudulent scheme whereby cybercriminals collected phone numbers of social network users and used stolen information to re-register for online banking services and gained access to their victims’ accounts.
Your current geolocation (‘Check-in’). Information that a family is away from home is a signal for burglars. It also makes it easier to track someone down.
Intimate/compromising photos. Photos that may seem like a bit of fun to adolescents could get them into trouble if published on the Internet. For example, there are numerous sites that collect erotic pictures of teenage girls and publish them as “hot” content. The directors of colleges and universities and potential employers may take a very dim view of compromising photos (e.g., a drunken night out).
Compromising photos of other people. Do not publish photos of other people that you would not like to see of yourself. Users of all ages should understand this basic rule. For example, according to FOSI research conducted in the US, one in five parents posted information on the Web about their child that the child found unacceptable and asked for it to be removed. It is important to remember that pictures of your child that seem very sweet to you could result in bullying in the future.
Photos of expensive gifts. This is a demonstration of wealth or luxury to strangers. Together with your home address and current geolocation it is a gold mine for thieves searching for victims on the Internet.
Information about your personal life. Personal information can always be used against you. For example, it can be used to guess the password for an online account, to devise a scam that you are more likely to fall for, or to get acquainted with your child and gain their confidence. Publishing complaints or very personal information about your loved ones is particularly harmful as it may damage your relationship. One more thing – remove photos of your ex from public view. Failing to do so could ruin current or future relationships.
Critical statements on sensitive topics. Of course, both you and your children are allowed to have your own opinions. However, when it comes to contentious issues such as religion, politics, sexual orientation, etc., it is better not to share your opinions on the Internet. This may cause a conflict that can shift from the virtual to the real world, or spoil your reputation in the eyes of a potential educational institution or an employer.
What should you do?
- Tell your children what must not, under any circumstances, be published on the Internet and why. Explain that posting on a social networking site is like speaking in public – you shouldn’t write anything on the Internet that would be considered dangerous or unethical to ‘shout’ about in the street or in a classroom.
- Register on the same social networking sites as your children and add them as friends so you can see their posts and quickly prevent any excessive openness.
- Make use of parental control apps such as Kaspersky Safe Kids, which protects your children from inappropriate content and informs you about changes to their social network profiles and friend lists as well as any potentially dangerous posts.