Digital Safety

You've probably learned a long list of important safety and privacy lessons already: Look both ways before crossing the street; buckle up; hide your diary where your nosy brother can't find it; don't talk to strangers.

The Federal Trade Commission, the nation's consumer protection agency, is urging kids to add one more lesson to the list: Don't post information about yourself online that you don't want the whole world to know.

The Internet is the world's biggest information exchange: many more people could see your information than you intend, including your parents, your teachers, your employer, the police -- and strangers, some of whom could be dangerous.

Social networking sites have added a new factor to the "friends of friends" equation. By providing information about yourself and using blogs, chat rooms, email, or instant messaging, you can communicate, either within a limited community, or with the world at large.

But while the sites can increase your circle of friends, they also can increase your exposure to people who have less-than-friendly intentions. You've heard the stories about people who were stalked by someone they met online, had their identity stolen, or had their computer hacked.

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