Parents trying to protect their children online are up against an array of dangers as technologies change and intermingle. Applications downloaded to phones and other mobile devices can pose a real danger for kids today due to the information they are publically conveying online coupled with the tracking ability of these devices.
About six years ago, an episode of “Oprah” questioned tested children truly heed their parents’ warnings not to talk to strangers. In one situation, children were left alone in a store while a parent pretended to leave, but then watched through a one-way mirror as the youngsters were approached by an adult holding a leash and asking for help finding a lost puppy.
To their horror, every child followed the stranger out of the store.
Asked why, the youngsters revealed that in their minds, a “stranger” is a “scary-looking” person – not someone well dressed, polite and nice enough to have a puppy.
One newly popular site called “Omegle Chat” even markets itself with the motto, “Talk to strangers!” Driscoll said.
It’s no longer social sites such as Facebook or Twitter that parents need to educate themselves about, he added. It’s the rapidly changing world of “apps” – applications downloaded to phones and other mobile devices – that are exposing both children and adults to dangers ranging from murder to suicide.
A site called Ask.fm – in which users can anonymously ask each other questions – illustrates a common vulnerability exploited by criminals, he said. Like many “apps,” Ask.fm users can log in using information from another site, such as Facebook. This gives the new “app’s” users access to one’s friends list, photos – often “tagged” with names and locations – and other personal information stored on that site.
And because youngsters often link a number of these “apps,” they become even easier to track and trick, especially when the “app” uses “geo-caching” that can map the exact location of the user when a photo is posted at a restaurant, a school sports event or a friend’s home.
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