Most parents know the general rules about how to protect their children from predators and identity thieves in the online community. Internet security companies such as McAfee provide excellent tips. Nonprofits like Protect Children Online give a range of useful resources as well.
A recently retired FBI investigator provided added insight during a presentation to parents in Paradise Valley last week sponsored by the nonprofit "Not My Kid."
John Iannarelli, retired assistant special agent in charge of the FBI's Phoenix division, spent nearly two decades investigating cyber crimes. Iannarelli discussed many of the tried and true rules for online safety. For example, have open communication with your children. Become friends with them on Facebook. Regularly monitor their Internet activities and app downloads. Become familiar with the latest social media sites and apps that allow your children to meet strangers.
A complete “Parent’s Guide to Internet Safety” from the FBI can be found here.
Iannarelli also gave three observations that aren’t routinely discussed but they may help parents stay one step ahead of their children’s online activity:
1. Learn about and teach your child about geo-locating data. Geo-locating data is information that identifies the physical location of a phone. Children and teens often don’t realize the data is attached to photos they post to social media sites. Predators and others use this information to pursue potential victims.
“One of the problems the FBI has seen is that a kid is at a party, being stalked. She takes photos and posts them on a social media site. The stalker goes to this location where they know the parents aren’t going to be,” Iannarelli said. He added that parents should instruct their children how to turn off the geo-location settings on their phone so that photos cannot be traced. When necessary -- such as while following map directions -- turn on geo-location settings.
2. Everyone can be hacked. Make sure you and your child understand this. Teenagers often provide sensitive information or revealing photos to individuals through websites they believe are secure. They may register on relationship websites like Tinder or Meet Me and give away identifying information that can be used later for predators or identity theft. Your children should understand how serious it is to put sensitive information on the Internet. No site is 100% secure. “If the FBI can be hacked, which it has, I doubt very much a relationship website can’t be hacked,” Iannarelli said.
3. Many teens have dual Facebook pages. Don’t be naïve. “There is the Facebook site that parents know about and the one parents don’t know about,” Iannarellli said. If possible, become friends with your child on Facebook. Regularly search your child’s name on social media sites like Facebook to see if they have a second account.