Child/Teen Security in Online Communities

Child n Teen Security 03Recently I came into a situation which I want to share with you. I would love to hear your opinions about it.

I play an online game (one of these brain-dead click browser games which are perfect to „play“ during busy mom days) and met a girl in there. She was fourteen years old and pretty ingenuous when it came to information about her person.

As soon as she had joined our team she asked if we’d like her to introduce herself. Our team leader said something like „Well, if you are bored, feel free.“ so she told us her real-life first name, her exact birth date and that we could always ask if we would like to know more about her. When I looked into her profile to see her stats, I noticed she had linked to several social media profiles belonging to her. As I’m naturally curious about these, I quickly checked them.

So what I found there was:

  • her exact date of birth
  • pictures giving away which kind of area she lived in
  • portraits of her (selfies most of the time)
  • group pictures with friends
  • information about…
  • …her religious views
  • …her sexuality
  • …her psychological issues
  • …the instruments she plays
  • …her hobbies
  • and last but not least her Skype alias

I sat there for a while, shocked. Would I want my child to reveal all this information at the age of 14? No. Did I have any right to speak up? I still don’t know, but I did speak up.

I wrote an in-game-message, explaining to her that I’m very worried about all the information she reveals public. I further pointed out this is a question of her security in the web.

I told her about all the ugly things I know from my daily work as a Community Manager: Cyber-Bullies, Stalkers, Impersonators, people willing to harm her in real life.

I reminded her that someone who wants to hurt her could combine all the information she shares public and quickly track her down.

In addition I asked her to speak with her congregation, her teachers or her parents about Internet security and shared a link to a German info page for parents & teachers about Internet security. I also added some information about how to check her privacy setting for e.g. Facebook.

I finished by telling her that I neither intend to frighten her nor to patronize her, but I am simply concerned about the information she reveals public.

To my relief she actually answered me, removed most of the information and limited publicity of her shared personal information.

Since then I wondered if what I did was the right thing to do and what I in general expect of someone who notices that a child/teen reveals pretty personal information about him/herself.

If this would happen inside Communities I manage I’d always act. I am, up to a certain point responsible for the security inside the community.

However I’m not sure if I (and every adult) should feel obligated to speak up if I see a child/teen making themselves vulnerable.

So what do you think?


5 thoughts on “Child/Teen Security in Online Communities

  1. If I see someone isn’t aware about the information he/she gives on social media, I like to use this information in a overacting friendly answer, to show the information I have, even I don’t know him/her. Honestly, it is just fun for me, I see no chance to change the whole world.

  2. I think you did the right thing. You shared pertinent information with her and she could choose to respond however she liked. From her response, it seems that the information you shared was useful!

  3. I think we all need to do what we can to help, specially children. She’s a minor, probably not briefed by her guardian(s) about ‘the internetz’. You acted in her best interests when you could just ignore it. Even if the girl took the information in a patronizing way and reported back to her parents, with your background it would never escalate to something negative on yourself. You did the right thing, and who knows, possibly avoided that this girl be tracked and groomed by predators in the future.

    She sounds like a very gentle and innocent soul that just wanted to be nice and friendly with everyone and ‘get along’. Unfortunately that’s not how the ‘internet’ works.

    • I was mostly worried that I scared her abou the internet. There are plenty of good things happening in and because of the internet. It can just be so dangerous to leave really private information, making her vulnerable.

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