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Don't Talk to Strangers

Give the kids more freedom to share personal data online?

6:00 PM -- So what do you tell the kids now? A new study published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine reports that preventing your kids from posting personal information -- such as their phone numbers or the school they attend -- doesn't actually keep them any safer from predators and other online threats.

The study found that sharing this kind of information doesn't increase a child's chances of being harassed or victimized online, sexually or otherwise, according to the AP article. It's when they practice risky online behavior, like chatting about sex online with someone they met on the Net, for instance, that they set themselves up for danger.

One author of the study said parents and teachers shouldn't waste their time on generic tips, but should focus on making their kids aware of specific "at-risk behaviors" and looking for "warning signs."

But is it really a waste of time to exercise a little extra caution by keeping your phone number to yourself? Like locking up your house or car, it's not a perfect preventative, but it can't hurt.

Sure, it makes sense that we should spell out for our kids risky online behavior and the warning signs of a predator who may be "grooming" them. But why say it's now OK to give out your number and physical location to an online "friend," as long as he or she doesn't show any warning signs? Kids can't always make those distinctions, even with the best of training and intentions, and predators know that.

— Kelly Jackson Higgins, Senior Editor, Dark Reading

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