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Keeping Your Child Safe Online- Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)

Online games and websites for children are everywhere, and while the internet provides a positive way for children to learn and explore, privacy concerns are always lurking. To help protect children's privacy, the FTC enforces the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which requires websites and online services to obtain consent from parents before collecting any personal information from children younger than 13. Personal information identified under COPPA include: name, address, phone number, email address, physical location, photos, videos, audio recordings, and IP addresses than can be used to track a child's activities over time and across different websites and services. If the website or service does not collect any personal information, then COPPA is not a factor. COPPA puts you in charge of your child's personal information!

Tips to Help Keep Your Child Safe Online:

  • Start talking to your children at as soon as they are using a computer or any mobile device. Starting the conversation at an early age helps to ensure that they are getting the proper information about online behavior, safety and security. This also lets you have the opportunity to give them the information before anyone else can.
  • Use everyday situations to bring up the conversation. If you are watching a TV program and you see a child or teenager using a computer or cell phone, bring it up! Ask them what they should or should not do in similar situations.
  • Talk to your child about what they're doing online. Find out which games, social networking sites and other activities they are using online and make sure you are comfortable with them.
  • Research the websites and services that they are using to see if any personal information will be collected and how it will be used. You have the right to review any information collected by these websites and services, and you have the right to retract your consent at any time.
  • File a complaint with the FTC if you think a website has put your child's privacy at risk.
  • Help your child to understand what information should stay private and what the implications could be when providing your personal information over the internet. Make sure they know why it is so important to keep their Social Security number, street address, phone number and financial information private.
  • Teach them to use strong passwords to protect their accounts. The longer the password, the harder it is to crack. Tell them to not use their personal information, username, common words or adjacent keys on the keyboards when setting their password. Make sure they know to always keep their passwords protected by never sharing them with anyone, including their friends!
  • Help your child to develop scam "antennas" and careful internet habits. Teach your child to not reply to a text, email or pop-up message asking for personal information and to not follow any links in the message. Teach them to be cautious of opening any attachments or downloading files from emails they receive, especially if they do not know who sent it.
  • Teach them to watch out for "free" stuff. These free games and downloads can contain hidden malware. Tell them to not download anything unless it is from a trusted site and they're scanned it with security software.
  • Make them aware of the risks of Peer-to-peer file sharing. They may be trying to share a music video, but they could accidentally share a private file. If your child downloads copyrighted material, you could get mired in legal issues. A shared file that they download could contain spyware, malware or other malicious materials.
  • Help them to create a safe screen name. A good screen name will not reveal how old they are, where they live or their gender. For privacy purposes, the screen name should not be the same as their email address.
  • Limit access to your child's profile. Most social networking websites have adjustable privacy settings, so you can restrict access to your child's profile. Teach your child about the importance of these privacy settings and your expectations for who should be allowed to view their profile.
  • Review your child's friend list. You may want to limit your child's online "friends" to people they actually know.
  • Remind your child that online actions have consequences. They should only post and share information they are comfortable with others seeing when using social networking wesbites. Once they post something, they cannot take it back. Help them to see why it is important to limit what they are sharin
  • Encourage online manners when using social networking wesbites. Talk to them about being courteous to others when online, and encourage them to come talk to you if they feel like others are not being kind to them online.
  • Read the comments on their profile. Cyberbullying often involves mean-spirited comments. Regularly reviewing the comments posted on their profile can help you to prevent your child from cyberbullying.
  • Encourage your child to trust their gut if they have suspicions. If they feel threatened by someone or uncomfortable because of something online, they should talk to you about it. You can help them report these concerns to the social networking website, police or the FTC. Most of these websites have a link for users tor report abusive, suspicious or inappropriate behavior.

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