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BBB urges parents to teach children about online safety

Better Business Bureau 

CHARLOTTE – According to the National Retail Federation, tablets and smartphones are among the top gifts that children want for Christmas this year.

“Although kids are very tech savvy, they are not scam savvy,” said BBB President Tom Bartholomy. “BBB urges parents to begin discussing online safety with children as soon as they are old enough to click on a mouse and play games online.”

Children are growing up with technology being part of their lives from the time they are born, and they are learning to use smartphones and computers before they can tie their own shoes.

In a 2012 survey from AVG, findings from U.S. children, ages 2 to 5 years old, may surprise you:

• 19 percent can operate a simple smartphone app

• 25 percent can make a mobile phone call

• 25 percent can open a web browser

• 61 percent can play a computer game

• 67 percent can operate a computer mouse

“Smartphones and computers have replaced television as the predominant education and entertainment media for children,” said Bartholomy. “The best way to keep your kids safe online is to supervise their screen time and discuss how to surf the Internet safely.”

BBB has advice for parents on how to talk to young children about online situations:

• Request for payment or financial information – Computer games and smartphone games may or may not be free. To prevent unwanted charges on your wireless bill, tell your child to check with you before clicking on “yes” or “okay” to anything online or on your phone.

• Request for personal information – Children often learn their name, address and phone number at an early age. Make sure your child understands that they cannot give out this information to anyone online.

• Inappropriate language – Children learn about “bad words” at an early age. Tell your child to let you know if anyone uses “bad” words when they are online.

• Stranger danger – Children are taught not to talk to strangers, but online, a stranger could pretend to be a friend or a teacher. Check out your child’s “friends” so you know who is chatting with your child online.

• Posting pictures online – By first grade, many kids know how to take pictures on a smartphone and upload the pictures to Facebook or Instagram. Tell your child that you must approve any pictures that they want to share with friends online.

• Bullying – Your child could be harassed online through social network posts, emails, or instant messages. Tell your child to let you know if anyone is being mean to them online.

• Friends and friend requests – Tell your child that he or she cannot be “friends” online with anyone whom you do not know. You should have the password to your child’s social media pages, and regularly review who their friends are and what they are sharing.

For more information about online safety, visit www.bbb.org.

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