Posted: Jun 6, 2013 8:48 PM by Marnee Banks - MTN News
Updated: Jun 6, 2013 8:49 PM
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that more than 16,000 minors were victims of identity theft last year, and some big changes are coming down from the federal government to protect children from online predators.
Statistics show 87% of children between the ages of nine and 13 use the Internet, and 29% of kids in that same age group have their own wireless device.
Bryan Fischer, a detective with the Helena Police Department, knows first-hand that kids are plugged in: "When we have problems, especially dealing with kids that have been exploited, a lot of times parents aren't aware of the things that they've downloaded to a smartphone or an iPhone or an iPad," Fischer said.
The Federal Trade Commission is updating the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) in order to protect kids under the age of 13.
The rules haven't been updated since 1998 - a time before smartphones, Facebook, and Twitter.
Beginning on July 1, any child under the age of 13 will need their parent's permission before entering personal information online.
"They are going to try and make sure that they can verify parent information. There was talk about utilizing a credit card, a verifiable email address," Fischer stated.
He also says that by requiring parental permission it better protects kids from identity theft and sexual predators.
Derek VanLuchene is the founder of Ryan United, a Helena-based non-profit that helps keep kids safe from predators, and he says educating parents is a key: "Laws are good and they are meant to protect but there are ways, especially with technology around some of those things. So it's just important for parents to know what their children are doing online, and where they are going on the computer and what they are looking at."
VanLuchene says families can also buy parental monitoring software. For example, if a child enters certain keywords, or visits specific websites, the software will take a screen shot and send an email or text notification to the parents.
But he says educating kids and setting boundaries is still the most important thing. "It's not about looking over your child's shoulder at every minute; it's about getting involved in their life and getting involved in what they are doing online.
These efforts are all part of embracing the wonders of new technology and making sure kids use it as a tool and don't become a victim.