School is coming to an end for most kids, which means they will likely have more free time for technology-related activities such as surfing the web. Keep in mind that accessing the Internet is easily done via the computer, cell phone, and video game consoles. Although, the Internet can be a great resource, it can also be very dangerous of not used with caution. Something as simple as a typographical error can send a child to unfavorable sites. If your son/daughter is looking for the latest products by “Legos” and accidentally omits the “o” he or she will be directed to a slew of sites on “legs”, many of which are pornographic in nature. Most of the dangers lie in social networking sites, such as chat rooms, Facebook, and Formspring.com.
Chat rooms are designed to share a common interest or subject such as sports or TV shows. Communication can be in a group or individual setting. The risk is that chat rooms predators are common. These predators “befriend” kids until they get personal information, such as addresses, phone numbers, town, school, when home alone, vacation plans; thus putting the child and the child’s family at risk.
Facebook is the world’s largest social network, and increasingly finding itself at the center of discussion over privacy issues. In May, users discovered a glitch which gave them access to private information of their Facebook friends. This was not the first privacy concern amongst Facebook users. A new approach to the privacy settings has been set up, but many think it is so convoluted, leaving them frustrated and not sure what information is available to the public. This recent event is a good example of how technology is changing and the risks that may be attached. To learn about the hidden dangers of Facebook, click here.
Formspring.me is a relatively new social networking site. It is well-known, and used, by teenagers as a place to share comments and ask questions while remaining anonymous. The major problem with formspring.com is the magnitude of nasty and sexual comments posted. Teens will set up these accounts and link them to Facebook or other accounts. They see it as a way to “hang out” and gossip amongst friends. Even if the comments are inappropriate and vicious, the kids seem to still want the attention. Folks, this is a form of “cyber-bullying” and it is dangerous. Last March a teen committed suicide as a result of being bullied on formspring.com. I think it is shocking that kids have access to so much on the Internet that parents know nothing about. When I learned about this site, I took a look. There is nothing positive that I could find. I asked a few friends and they had the same conclusion. So then why don’t the kids stop?
Parents, be aware of what your kids are doing, what sites they visit, who they are meeting online, and what information they are sharing. Sharing too much personal information can lead to identity theft, robbery / break-in, rape, even death as in the cyber-bullying case. We can never guarantee our kids are 100% safe in anything they do, but we can reduce the risks by educating your kids of the dangers and taking appropriate steps to protect them.
Mark Bello has thirty-three years experience as a trial lawyer and twelve years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life funding is needed during litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Business Associate of the Florida, Tennessee, and Colorado Associations for Justice, a member of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series. Mark Bello is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.