Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Repost: Are your kids compromising your family's security?

I've contributed to the Orlando Sentinel's Moms at Work blog since 2010. The blog is changing content management systems and my old posts will no longer be available to the public, so I'm reposting them here, in the order that they were originally posted.

Aug. 15, 2012

Like a lot of children, when I was in preschool, I enjoyed telling other people what I knew.

There were a couple of occasions when I proudly told strangers my first, middle and last names; how old I was; my address and the names of my parents. Luckily, one or both of my parents were nearby when that happened and they were able to drag me away before I also explained how to get in the house at night, where my mom kept her jewelry and what time we went to sleep.

Nobody took me that seriously when I was a toddler, but with the advent of GPS-enabled social media, it's entirely possible that today's kids can unwittingly give out a lot of information that could compromise the security of their families.

Alexa Dell, the 18-year-old daughter of Michael Dell, the very wealthy CEO of computer technology company Dell Inc., learned that difficult lesson recently. She often shared tidbits about her life, including her location, on social-media sites such as Instagram and Twitter. For any other teen, that's mostly unremarkable behavior.

Her parents, though, didn't find it so unremarkable, mostly because her father and his company spend nearly $3 million each year on the family's security. Alexa Dell's social-media accounts disappeared into the ether sometime late last week.

As someone who enjoys and uses social media both personally and professionally, this is something I think about frequently. Although we're nowhere near as wealthy as the Dells, I'd hate it if something I posted on social media resulted in my family or home being targeted by some unscrupulous person. I use Foursquare (mostly because I enjoy the specials and free offers I get from businesses I patronize regularly and because I'm competitive enough to enjoy battling friends to be "mayor" of various places), but I'm very cognizant of how much information about myself and my family I allow on that and other sites. While I don't mind "checking in" from work, church, the grocery store or the gym, I never check in, for example, from my daughter's school.

Have you had discussions about what is and isn't appropriate information to post on the Internet with your kids? What kinds of limitations have you placed on them?

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