Census Scams: Never Respond to a Census Email

March 18th, 2010

The U.S. Census is out! But only in your mail box. Fraudulent scammers are staring to send fake phishing emails to consumers pretending to need personal and financial information for the Census. They are bogus. Do not respond to them. As the U.S. Census points out in its Fraudulent Activity and Scams web page it never solicits information from you by email or Web page. It is our understand that a citizen does not return the Census form through the mail the Census Bureau may send properly credentialed Census agents around door to door for the information in May. If some one knocks on your door claiming to be from the Census don’t let them in the house and make sure you see photo ID and documentation that they are from the Census. If you get an email claiming to need personal and financial information for the Census you can be certain it’s a scam (a phishing scam). To learn more about Census phishing scams visit their Fraudulent Activity and Scams web page. To learn more about phishing generally, visit

Be apart of the discussion on our “Digital Nation”

February 3rd, 2010

The PBS program Frontline released its latest episode, Digital Nation last night and it’s highly worth a watch for everyone. The program is sectioned into nine parts – the first parts dealing with digital distraction and the realities of multi-tasking. These segments are an eye-opening look into the effects of the constantly wired world kids live in today and also how educators are using technology and the Internet to keep kids engaged. Other segments include gaming, online relationships and social media and a look at what we can expect down the line in a 24-hour a day wired existence.

There is also a feedback mechanism for you to share  your thoughts on the program. Be apart of the discussion!

Is Your Android Safe and Secure?

January 13th, 2010

Relative to the iPhone the Android app phone is spanking new. The 20,000 or so apps for Android developed so far for Android phones are dwarfed by the number of iPhone apps — 120,000 and counting. In addition to all the fun and clever apps written for the iPhone, there are many security and safety apps written for the platform as well. Whether you want to block porn for your 12 year old or whether you want to remotely wipe clean your data from a lost iPhone, well, there’s an iPhone app for that. Now that more and more Android devices are being sold more and more developers are writing for the platform. That means that you will start seeing similar security and safety apps for the Android. The New York Times’ Gadgetwise (no relation to GetNetWise) blogged today about a new security app for the Android in a piece titled “App of the Week: Lock Up Your Android.” Gadgetwise features an app from WaveSecure, “a free app for Android lets you use any computer to lock down your lost phone, erase the disc, locate it and restore much of the phone’s contents if it is recovered.”

No doubt with more time on the market we will see even more great safety and security apps written for Android. Now if I could just get a porn blocker for my Droid.

New Data on Sexting from Pew Internet

December 15th, 2009

Amanda Lenhart from Pew Internet & American Life Project just published a new report on teen sexting, which the report describes as sending “sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude images or videos of themselves to someone else via text messaging.” Ms. Lenhart is one of the nation’s leading researchers on youth online behavior. The report differs in some ways from last month’s MTV/Associate Press “Thin Line” study that included research on sexting. Certainly Pew’s research is more rigorous and nuanced. While the MTV study stated that 10 percent of teens had “shared a naked picture of themselves” Pew researches found that actually half that — only four percent — had shared nude photos of themselves.

Previous studies often get misquoted to give the impression that upwards of 25 percent to 30 percent of teens have sent naked pictures of themselves. The new Pew data very specifically states that the number is much, much lower. Of course the cascading effect — meaning the broader distribution of the naked image — can blossom to a much higher percentage.

Another interesting aspect of the Pew study is their acknowledgment that teens sometimes view sexting as a form of “relationship currency.” What is not commonly talked about outside of academic circles is the teen dynamics with relation to sexting are very complex. We as parents have a pretty black and white view of sexting (i.e. DON’T DO IT!). Yet the social pressures and coping mechanisms that result in sexting are not very well understood — certainly not by us as parents. We at GetNetWise applaud Ms. Lenhart for addressing this controversial aspect of the issue.

Of course, we encourage you to read our earlier blog post called “Practical Advice and Dialogue on Sexting” for help.

Remember we told you to set Facebook privacy settings?

December 10th, 2009

Last year we urged parents to help their kids set their privacy settings in whatever social networking service they used (See the How-To Video Tutorials here). We urged kids to turn the privacy settings to “Friends Only.” Well, things change really quickly on the Internet and Facebook has changed how users can access their privacy settings and even the settings themselves. So, still take our advice about changing your kids’ settings to “friends only” but note that the path to making privacy changes has changed. To get to your Facebook privacy settings simply select in the top right hand corner next to your profile name “Settings” and pull down the menu and select “Privacy Settings.” In our dated How To Video Tutorial “Privacy” was right up at the top, now you just need to take that extra step and select “Settings.” See photo here.

But it really is worth noting that Facebook has expanded the category of what is known as “Personally Available Information.” This is information that users cannot restrict from others. It used to be that in order to find each other on a “social network” you could see each other’s name, networks and fan listings. Now Facebook has expanded that list to include things like a user’s city, gender, photograph, the profile pages you are a fan of, and friends list. So, be aware that you really can’t control whether others see that information about you or your children.

What to do? We recommend taking a different look at what info your teen is sharing by taking a step back. First, log out of Facebook and search for your teen’s name on Facebook through Facebook search and other Web search engines. Take a look and see what you find.  Then log in to Facebook as a non-friend of your teen and search for her name and see what information about her you can find. Make notes on what you can see and what you can’t. Third, and most important, talk with your teen about what you have found. Actually, we recommend performing the above search process together.

If changes are needed go into the “Privacy Settings” and make changes. If you and your teen don’t like how much information about her and her friends must be shared as “Personally Available Information,” write to Facebook.

GetNetWise Tips: If it sounds too good to be true…

December 9th, 2009

As we go online this holiday season to check off those gift lists, it’s extra important to keep in mind these tips for avoiding spam scams and maintaining your privacy as you shop.

  • If it sounds too good to be true, – it probably is. Fraudsters, scammers, and crooks take advantage of people via unwanted e-mail. The Federal Trade Commission has lots of information about ways to reduce the amount of spam you receive and how to report fraud.
  • Check the privacy policy when you submit your address to a Web site – Always be familiar with a Web site’s privacy policy before submitting any information. Learn more about how to read a privacy policy.
  • Protect your privacy while shopping online – GetNetWise offers these helpful tips for:

Technology Can Aid Parents of “Queen Bees”

November 17th, 2009

Chapter 1 of Rosalind Wiseman‘s update of the best selling book Queen Bees & Wannabes explores the role of technology in the lives of parent and child relationships. It’s worth a read for that chapter alone! Ms. Wiseman offers actionable tips for parents on how they can use technology to keep up with tech savvy teens. In the section “Using Technology for Reconnaissance” Ms. Wiseman advises parents of teens to have them take a camera phone picture of where they are when they are checking in. For a “very sneaky kid, make her take a picture that includes something to indicate the date and time,” according to Ms. Wiseman.

Parents can further take advantage of the technology to fill in the “information vacuums between parents” by befriending other parents using social networking sites like Facebook. According to Ms. Wiseman teens will sometimes exploit the lack of parent-to-parent communication to mask where she is or with whom. It’s an age-old trick — “Jenny’s mom is taking us to pizza and a movie.” Facebook friending and having Jenny’s mom’s cell phone number can seriously reduce that information fog.

Avoid Fraud by Playing Games

October 21st, 2009

Are your online accounts and information safe? You should first ask yourself whether you know how to avoid getting “phished.” Phishing is when cyber crooks trick you into giving them your online username and passwords by masquerading as your online bank, email provider, social network etc.

Phishers send you an electronic communication, usually an email, that you would swear is from your bank, mortgage company or webmail provider. But it’s not. The message tells you that there is great urgency to log in to your account to avoid some problem such as your service being shut down or your bank account being closed. The email links you to a Web page that, again, you would swear belongs to your bank etc. But it doesn’t. It’s fake. When you type in your username and password you have actually just given it to the phishers who are using the fake site. You’ve been phished.

The best way to avoid being phished is to learn the signs of a phishing scam. There are a lot to look for and we recommend playing games to learn how. Both the Federal Trade Commission’s and our friends at Carnegie Mellon University have created games to help users learn how not to be phished. Take a moment and play the below games. Who knows, it may save your sensitive personal information.

For more GetNetWise resources on recognizing secure Web sites watch the following GNW How-To Video Tutorials:

More helpful advice on web video from the NYT.

October 13th, 2009

We’ve certainly discussed the topic of web video and your family, but today the New York Times lays out some more good advice for how to address sites like and YouTube with your kids.

Summer Travel Season is Here!

June 15th, 2009

It’s that time of year again – time to start research on the Web for that perfect family vacation, weekend getaway or beach trip! the Internet is so much apart of our daily lives, it’s hard to imagine how we ever got by without it. Gone are the days of the “National Lampoon’s Vacation”-style family getaway…now we can plan ahead for that trip to Walleyworld and find out well in advance if the park’s going to be closed. Or if that hotel we pass by will take a personal check.

Here are a few helpful sites to help plan this year’s amazing vacation with your family.

Travel with the Kids at

One-Tank Escapes for Seven Cities and Family Travel Ideas from

Fodor’s Plan Your Trip Online, Frommer’s Trip Ideas and Travel Services & Ideas from The Lonely Planet

Weekend Getaway Deals from

Flight Status & Delay Reports and National Traffic and Road Closure Information from the U.S. Department of Transportation

If you have a smartphone, don’t forget to download some helpful travel apps as well to take with you on the go at Blackberry App WorldiPhone Apps and the Nokia Ovi App Store for starters. Let us know where you’ve done research on the Web to plan your family’s vacation by leaving a comment. Have safe and happy summer travels!

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