It’s summer and teenagers have nothing but time on their hands to surf the Internet. Give your world-weary, tech-savvy teen these tips to stay out of trouble online.

Identity Theft 911

It’s the season every parent of a teenager dreads—summer—when sons and daughters have nothing but time on their hands…and they spend most of it online. Parents can’t supervise their teens around the clock—not that most would listen to what Mom and Dad have to say about their Internet activities anyway. So how can you protect your fiercely independent, world-weary, tech-savvy teen—the one with the bad case of selective hearing—from trouble online?

Let us do the talking with these tips.

Social Networking

It isn’t cool to have 972 friends when one of them is an identity thief. You put yourself at risk when you:

  1. Announce plans—even “going to work at the mall”—on Facebook or elsewhere.
  2. Post your birth date, physical address or other details that help identity thieves open accounts in your name.
  3. Post remotely questionable photos. Remember, potential employers could see them, and PHOTOS. ON. THE. INTERNET. NEVER. DIE.
  4. Accept friend requests from people you’ve never met. “Cute” doesn’t mean “legit.”
  5. Click on a link or take an online quiz (do you really need to know what flavor ice cream you’d be?). Many are scams that download malware onto your computer.
  6. Use the same password (or an obvious one) for everything.

Shopping Online

The boots are adorable and 40 percent cheaper online. But is the website reputable—or even real? Is it worth hearing what your parents would say if you got duped?
When you shop online:

  1. Only use websites with “https” in the URL and a yellow padlock in the browser bar.
  2. It’s boring, but read retailer reviews before ordering.
  3. Your debit card is cash. If you buy from a fake website, it’s gone…and it’s hard to get back.

Texting and Emailing

This one’s easy: If you don’t want the entire world to see it, don’t text or email it. Period.

File Sharing and Chat Rooms

You may feel close to all 8,689 members of your chat room or file-sharing site. But make no mistake: They’re total strangers and most likely they don’t have your best interests in mind.

Be wary of:

  1. Downloading unknown files. They may contain malware.
  2. Peer-to-peer file sharing for music and other items. It may expose your computer to all sorts of nastiness and malware. If it’s the family computer and/or networked, you could expose the whole family to trouble.
  3. Making personal files or information accessible. You have no idea what people may do with them.
  4. Something for nothing. Offers of free money or stuff are usually scams.
  5. Oversharing. Especially if someone asks lots of personal questions but doesn’t share back.

In General

  1. Try to remain as anonymous as possible online.
  2. Trust your gut. If it feels weird, it’s weird.
  3. Ask yourself: Does this pass the Grandma Test? (If you wouldn’t want your grandma to see it, don’t post it online.)
  4. Beware of cyberbullying. A: Don’t do it. B: If you’re being bullied, report it immediately.
  5. Most important of all, don’t ever agree to meet in person anyone you meet online—unless your parents, and theirs, are involved in the arrangements.

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