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Screen Names

It’s important when your children pick their screen names that they understand the risks involved in their choices.

A screen name might be used in a chat room, or in a forum or on various social networking web sites. In theory, it’s to protect the users identity so that instead of having to use their given name of “Mary Smith” they can use a screen name like “Princess Warrior”.

Unfortunately, too many children use easily identifiable names while thinking they are hiding their identities.

An example would be the high school student who uses the scree name Patriot21 in a chat room. If, sometime during their chat they mention they are a softball player (thinking that isn’t giving away too much information) and mention something that they had done that gives away their general location (such as “I went to the Baltimore Aquarium last week” which sounds like it would be safe to say because Baltimore is a big city and they haven’t disclosed exactly where they live) a predator can put together a few things and find the high school in the area with a nickname of “Patriots” and then look on their web site to find out if there is a softball player with the number 21. Too often, it is that simple to find a person from a user name and chat.

If the predator can find this information using the information mentioned above, he/she can go to the game (since the softball schedule is most likely available somewhere online) and start preying on this person. They could start an innocent conversation with this person mentioning how they saw her at the aquarium and then using a few other pieces of conversation from the online chat, they can get much closer to their prey simply because of the information given with the screen name and in the chat.

The following information should not be used in a screen name.

Real name
Initials
City
School
Date of Birth
Hobbies

Basically, your child shouldn’t use anything in their screen name that could ever be used to identify them in the real world. This isn’t because you want your child to feel so anonymous they feel they are safe to do anything but rather, so that others can’t use the information to hurt them in any way.

Discuss the importance of choosing screen names properly with your children. Also, make sure you know the screen names they are using to make sure they aren’t giving away any information they shouldn’t be

Have a great day!

Lawrence

Snopes.com

We have all received the emails from people saying “forward this on and you will receive $X from…” or the ones that say “this was sent to me by my attorney so you know it’s true…” How can you (and your children) know when something is true and when something is simply an urban legend?

One of the simplest, and most reliable, ways to determine whether something you read online is true or is an urban legend is to go to http://www.snopes.com/. This is an excellent site to help determine the veracity of claims you read online. The people who run snopes.com do not claim to be all knowing but they do an excellent job of researching the various stories you or your child might come across on the Internet.

It’s important to teach your children that just because they read something online, whether it’s on a web site or from IM or email, this does not mean it’s true. Using resources such as snopes.com will help you, and your children, avoid falling for many of the urban legends that are out there.

Have a great day!

Lawrence