Communication Safety

Email

Change your passwords often. The simple act of changing your password will increase the likelihood that your email remains secure. In addition, alpha-numeric passwords are harder to break, so be sure to use both numbers and letters.

Never open attachments from unknown sources. Be cautious about attachments from people you don't know. They may contain Trojan horses, worms, or viruses, which can seriously damage your computer. Make sure anti-virus software scans all attachments before you open them, as this is a common way for viruses to spread.

Do not reply to spam email messages, texts, or other harassing or offensive communication. By responding, you only confirm that you are an actual person with an active email address... who can be plagued with constant unwanted email solicitations.

Respect your friends. Don't give out their personal information without their permission.

Keep a record. If somebody is bullying or harassing you via email or text, don't delete it until you have discussed how to stop it with somebody you trust. It may help to find out who is sending the messages if you don't already know, and it will definitely make the situation easier to explain to someone when you tell them.

Tell someone. If you receive communications that are bullying or threatening in nature, be sure to tell someone about them. If you feel you are being harassed or threatened, you should report them to your local police.

Have more than one email account. Use a personal email address for friends and family for example. If you have to give an email address for entering a competition or registering for a service, it is a good idea to use a different address rather than your personal one, as this may lead to you receiving a lot of unwanted spam mail for example.

Spam

Spam is the common term for "junk email." The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 defines spam as "any unsolicited email message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service."

It May Be Spam If:

  • It is unsolicited; you did not ask for it.
  • It is impersonal to the point where the recipient is unimportant. (For example, if you are a collector of rare books, and you receive an email flyer for a rare book auction, many would NOT consider that spam.)
  • It may have a misleading subject line or a false return address.
  • It does not include a method for avoiding future emails from the same organization.

When advertisements arrive in your inbox for things like low-rate mortgages, miracle drugs, or cheap long distance services, you have been spammed. Spam often advertises suspicious products, sends false notifications, or "get rich quick" promotions. It can be used to spread computer viruses, Trojan horses or other malicious software. Some spam attempts to use the victims' inexperience with computer technology to trick them, for example, phishing.

Tips to Keep Your Inbox Spam-Free

  • When creating an email account, choose an email address that is difficult to guess, i.e. a series of numbers and letters. It is best not to have any identifying information in your email address, such as full name, age, or location.
  • Never reply to spam. Even if it says "unsubscribe" or "Be removed from the list" do not reply, as it may just confirm your email address to the sender and may mean you get even more spam! Instead, report the message as spam with a junk mail filer in your inbox.
  • Check the privacy policy when you submit your address to a website - Always be familiar with a website's privacy policy before submitting any information.

Resources

Federal Trade Commission - Spam

Stopspam.org provides a repository of information on how you can help stop various Internet abuses, such as Spamming, Unsolicited Commercial/Bulk email, Make Money Fast Chain Letters, Rogue Sites, etc., as well as how to fight back if you are the victim of one of these types of abuse.

Social Networks

What is Social Networking?

Social networks offer great opportunities for self-expression, support, new experiences, helpful information and just plain fun. These sites generally enable their subscribers to post, comment on and share messages and content from others.

What Are The Risks?

Objectionable content: In many online communities, users post material that is not appropriate for children or that many parents would find objectionable. This can include obscene language, racist or violent text or images, and a wide range of sexual content including pornography.
Overexposure: Parents and guardians need to be concerned not only with what their children might see and hear, but also what they may present. Teens can make unwise decisions about what they post online and send to others. This includes posting pictures of himself or herself or of friends in a sexually provocative or incriminating manner; publishing personal information that sexual predators could use to learn more about a child or their friends; or bragging about exploits (real or made-up) or making threatening and harassing remarks that could have negative consequences.
Contact with predators: Much publicity has been generated around sexual predators (mainly adults) looking for minors to exploit. Sometimes, these adults will pretend to be teens themselves, but often they will be quite clear about their age and intent.
Meeting someone you have only met online can be dangerous. If you are going to meet them, for your own safety, take someone you trust with you and meet in a public place in the daytime. Another option is to tell someone you trust that you are meeting someone you don't know. Tell them who, where, and when. Notify them when you return home so they know you are okay.
Be careful who you trust online. Remember that online friends are really strangers. People online, no matter how long you have been talking to them or how friendly they are, may not be who they say they are.

What Parents Can Do:

  • Have an open conversation with your teen about their social networking and texting experiences. Try to establish a context for discussion that is not combative or accusing.
  • Create your own account on a social network your child uses. Spend some time browsing the network's site. This will give you familiarity with the world that is so essential to your teen(s) and their friends and will facilitate future conversations.
  • If your child has an account, require that they show it to you. Periodically monitor/read it. Set the expectation that only people they know in real life should be on their "friends" list.
  • Know your children's passwords and account information. This will enable you to view their pages even if they set their profile to "private." (Private profiles are accounts that can only be viewed by others given explicit permission to view it. This is a double-edged sword, in that it means strangers [like sexual predators] don't have an easy way to learn about or harass the private account owner. However, it also means that without being granted access, parents or guardians and other adults in positions of authority or care-giving cannot view the online activity of the owner either.)

Resources

National Crime Prevention Council - Parents' Guide to Social Networking Websites
Federal Trade Commission - Kids and Socializing Online

Rules for Kids:

  • Talk with your parents or guardians to help them learn and understand the role of social networking and texting in your life.
  • Never post or share anything you wouldn't want your parents, guardians, teachers, or future employers to see.
  • Never post or share personal information (phone number, email or address) on the web. The same applies for your friends' information. Be aware that information you post could put you at risk of victimization
  • Never meet with anyone you first "met" online and tell your parent or guardian if anyone requests a meeting.
  • Only add people as friends if you know then in real life. Set privacy settings so that you have to approve people to be added as a friend.
  • Include your parents or guardians and other trusted adults as friends. If your parents or guardians do not have an account, give them access to your profile.

Mobile Phone Safety

It is important to understand the dangers and risks involved with mobile devices.

Easy to use, lose and steal
In reality, these devices are not just phones; they are powerful, tiny computers. Because they are small, mobile devices can be easy to lose and easy to steal, which places all of the information in your email, online habits and other confidential treasures out in the open where a cyber thief can steal them.

Who is texting your kids?
If you provide your kids with a mobile phone, they also may be sending and receiving text messages, which can be risky on several levels. Sexual predators often master the technologies that kids like. Also, text messages go to a mobile phone number. Do your children know who has access to their mobile phone number?

Safety Rules for Mobile Communication Devices

Lock down your mobile device. Make sure you have a strong password so if anyone does find your device; they'll have to work hard to crack your code.

Don't text and drive. Not only texting while driving increase your risk of causing an accident, it is also against the law in Rhode Island.

Monitor what your kids do with their mobile phone. Review their contact lists and make sure they exchange messages and phone numbers with people you trust.

Only give your mobile number out to people you already know and trust.

Respect your friends' privacy and don't give out their numbers without their permission.

Get your friends' permission before taking pictures of them. Be sure to get their permission especially before sending pictures to someone else or posting them to the Internet. Remember that as soon as you have sent them, you can't control where they end up.

Think before you hit "send." Remember that when you text you can't see the impact your words or images will have.

Never reply to text messages from people you don't know. This includes spam.

Mobile Phone Tips from NCMEC

Tips for Parents and Guardians

  • Set appropriate ground rules for your children's use of mobile phones and electronic devices.
  • Monitor their mobile phone bill to keep track of the amount of time your children spend talking and sending messages and with whom.
  • Pay special attention to numbers or messages from people you do not recognize or have not approved.
  • Teach your children to tell you if anyone sends them a threatening or frightening message.
  • If your children are being stalked, harassed, or threatened in any way, report the incident to your service provider and local law enforcement agency.
  • If the material is lewd, obscene, or illegal, also report it to www.cybertipline.com or 1-800-843-5678.
  • Consider creating settings to control or prohibit access to the Internet, email, and text messaging through your children's wireless device.

Things for Parents and Guardians to Discuss With Children

  • Never share your mobile phone number and personal or identifying information with anyone you don't know well and trust and without your permission.
  • Respect your friends' privacy by never sharing their number or information.
  • Never use your wireless device to take, send, or post pictures or video of your friends without permission from their parents or guardians. Taking or sharing embarrassing pictures of someone is a form of bullying and harassment. Once you post an image or video online you can't get it back.
  • Keep your passwords private. Never share them with anyone other than parents or guardians.
  • Never publicly post or send photos of yourself to anyone you don't know well and trust and without my permission.
  • Never send sexually provocative pictures or messages.
  • Remind your children text messages may be intercepted or used by others. Teach them to use appropriate language in their messages while being sure not to reveal personal or identifying information.

The National Do Not Call Registry is an easy way to stop getting telemarketing sales calls they don't want. You can add your name to the National Do Not Call Registry or you can call toll-free: 1-888-382-1222 (TTY 1-866-290-4236), from the number you wish to register.