Catfishing, or faking the identity of another person online to have a relationship, is not that hard for a teenager to fall for. Predators are adept at exploiting a teen or tween’s tendency to take people at their word. Ten rules for using the Internet can help them avoid falling victim to catfishing.
- No screen names that suggest your name or age (tyler14), gender (sk8r_gurrl), or are suggestive (longlegs in CA).
- Only friend people you know and have met in real life.
- Don’t agree to meet in person with people you only know online.
- Ignore private messages or emails from people you don’t recognize.
- Don’t talk about sexual topics in chat rooms, particularly with strangers or people you don’t really know.
- Avoid posting photos of yourself, especially ones that could be seen as suggestive. Never send a picture of yourself to a stranger for any reason.
- Stay away from X-rated sites and social networks that have a reputation for being “hookup” sites.
- Never agree to lie to your parents or hide something from your parents at the request of an online friend.
- Keep identifying information about yourself, and your friends, completely private.
- Know that your parents will be monitoring your online activities.
Of these ten tips, the last is most important. Of course you should educate your kids all you can about how to avoid predators catfishing online, but the truth is that YOU are the only real thing standing between them and danger. Let’s face it, kids make mistakes. If you are not using a service like uKnowKids, how would you know if your child is falling victim to catfishing before crisis hits?
Predators are experts at tricking even the most careful teens into doing things they ordinarily wouldn’t do, and the only way to catch them at it is to monitor your child’s online communications. Talk to your kids about this important role that you play in their safety to find the right balance between your need to keep them safe with their desire to become more independent users of technology.
Tim Woda is a passionate advocate for protecting children from today’s scariest digital dangers – cyberbullying, sexting and online predators. He is the co-founder of uKnow.com, developers of uKnowKids.