no secret that todayís teenagers are more technologically wired than
ever before. If you are a parent of a teen, you have likely noticed
their fascinating ability to ďtextĒ friends at startling speeds, watched
them spend hours on the computer at a time with multiple Instant
Messenger boxes up on the screen as they participate in five online
conversations at once, and you might have even had arguments with your
teen about their constant technology use. But for better or for worse,
todayís technology is here to stay.
The old phrase ďItís 10 p.m. Ė do you know where your children are?Ē has
taken on a new meaning Ė do you know where your children are online?
With instant messaging, social networking sites, e-mail, and blogs,
todayís parents have quickly been forced to hone new skills that our
parents never even had to consider. This new skill of virtual parenting
can be difficult, especially when 64% of online teens and 66% of parents
agree that teens know more about the Internet than their parents do.
Consider the following statistics released by the Pew Internet and
American Life Project:
▪ 87 percent, or about 21 million, of
teens age 12 - 17 go online.
▪ 75 percent of online teens use
Instant Messenger (IM). In comparison, 44 percent of online adults have
▪ 60 percent of online teens have
gotten an email or IM from a total stranger and 63 percent of these say
they have responded to such contacts.
▪ 48 percent of teens say their use of
the Internet improves their relationship with friends.
▪ 55 percent of parents believe it is
essential for todayís children to learn how to use the Internet in order
to be successful.
As parents in an increasingly wired society, our challenge is finding
the appropriate balance between protecting our teens online, while still
allowing them the opportunity to participate in these new forms of
social activities and utilize the unique educational resources available
on the Internet. Finding this balance takes a different form when it
involves teens rather than when it involves younger children. In an
effort to help parents manage their teens online activity, organizations
like the National Cyber Security Alliance, OnGuardOnline, Netsmartz, and
federal agencies like the Federal Trade Commission regularly make
recommendations for parents who want to learn more about their teensí
online lives. The following tips are general recommendations that are
found on these organizationís websites:
Be reasonable and set reasonable expectations. The Internet is a
large part of teens' social culture, and it is important to understand
their needs and interests while at the same time setting boundaries.
Setting reasonable expectations, like placing the computer in a
high-traffic family area, or setting time limits on Internet use, allow
teens to explore the web within certain limits.
Learn as much as you can about the Internet. The more informed
you are, the better you will be at virtual parenting. Ask your teens to
show you some of the sites they browse. Read about MySpace, Facebook,
and IM so that you are familiar with some of the terminology used on the
sites. Essentially, your goal should be to learn your teenís virtual
language, which will enable you to be a better enforcer of your
boundaries and will likely keep you more at ease with your teenís
Use filtering programs to block objectionable sites. Research the
various filtering software available to parents and find a program that
has a level of filtering that works best for your family. Some software
use filters based on the type of site category or by a site-rating.
Other software allows you to manually choose particular sites in which
you want to block access. Do not, however, use filtering sites to take
the place of your role in monitoring your teenís Internet use.
Monitor your teenís online activity. Let them know that you will
periodically sit down with them and check their blogs or their social
networking pages. Knowing that they have someone watching will increase
your teenís accountability. It also creates a sense of right and wrong Ė
if they know you are checking their page tomorrow afternoon and they
have to remove photos or information that you wouldnít approve of, they
will begin to build awareness of what is and isnít appropriate to put
Encourage your teen to come to you if they experience a problem or
questionable issue on the Internet. When they come to you about an
issue or problem, use good judgment in whether your first response
should be to blame or punish them. Teens need to know that their parents
are their closest allies, and your immediate response when they approach
you with a problem will determine whether they confide in you on similar
issues in the future.
Keep the lines of communication open. Talk with your teen about
the Internet. Emphasize the importance of protecting their privacy and
the dangers they could face online. Using terminology that teens
understand and examples that involve programs they use, like Facebook
and MySpace, will give you a greater chance of holding your teenís
For additional resources and online safety tips for teens, use the
following helpful websites:
Social Networking Sites: Safety Tips for Tweens and Teens by the Federal
IRS Scam Alert
The Internal Revenue Service has issued a
warning informing taxpayers of several e-mail and phone scams
surrounding the economic stimulus bill from the federal government that
will provide rebates to some citizens. Scammers are using the IRS name
to gain personal and financial information, such as Social Security
numbers and bank account and credit card information from unsuspecting
individuals for the use of committing identity theft, including running
up charges on the victimís credit cards, applying for loans or credit
cards, or filing false tax returns.
Victims of identity theft can spend months or years attempting to fix
the damage that these scammers have caused. It is important to
remain alert to these scams and become aware of the warning signs in
order to prevent possible identity theft. The IRS has identified the
following rebate scams:
Rebate Phone Call
In the Rebate Phone Call, consumers receive a phone call from someone
who identifies himself as an IRS employee and tells the consumer that he
or she is eligible for a sizable rebate for filing his taxes early. The
supposed IRS employee informs the consumer that the caller will need
their bank account information in order to make a direct deposit for the
rebate, which he says is the only way to receive the rebate.
In the Refund E-mail, scammers create an e-mail falsely claiming to come
from the IRS informing the recipient that he or she is eligible for a
tax refund. The scammers then tell the victim to click on a link in the
e-mail to access a refund claim form, which asks the victim to enter
personal information in which the scammers then use to access the victimís
bank or credit card information.
How to Tell if itís a Scam
▪ The IRS never forces
taxpayers to use direct deposit; taxpayers who decide to use direct
deposit do so by completing the appropriate section on their tax
returns, submitting their bank routing and account information once they
▪ The IRS never sends
unsolicited e-mail, mail, or phone calls about tax account matters to
individuals, businesses, tax-exempt or other taxpayers.
▪ Filing a tax
return is the only way to apply for a tax refund; there is no separate
application or form for them to fill out.
▪ The IRS has
not yet begun distributing the stimulus checks; they are not expected to
begin distributing until late May.
▪ No one should be
asking for personal or financial information for these rebates.
To Report a Scam:
questionable email to
questionable phone call information to
instructions contained in
"How to Protect Yourself from Suspicious E-Mails or Phishing Schemes."
To find out if you are due a refund from your last annual tax return
▪ Visit the IRS Web
site at www.irs.gov
"Where's My Refund?"