So then…I scoop more corn on their plates and triumphantly finish my lecture about online safety with this reassuring conclusion, “So remember, NEVER EVER share ANY personal information online, no matter HOW innocent or insignificant it might be — because cyber criminals have A LOT of time on their hands to troll the internet, piecing together all the details about you and where you live. And you don’t want the criminals to (ominous voice) KNOW.WHERE.YOU.LIVE, right?”
Chloe, age 8, stares at me, solemn and bug-eyed, no doubt in fear of the afore-mentioned crafty criminals.
Tucker, age 11, nods his head emphatically and says, “Of course, Mom, they tell us about that at school too. You should never talk about going on vacation on Facebook or anything ‘cuz then the robbers will know when to come to your house and steal your stuff.”
Now Chloe stares at him, solemn and bug-eyed.
“That’s right, Tucker, you can never be too careful.” I say. “That’s why we don’t even print your names on your backpacks or shirts because then someone could call out your name and pretend they know you.”
“Right,” he says. “And NEVER get in a van with a man who says he needs help finding a puppy!”
Yep, that’s right, he even knows about pedophiles.
And ever since Tucker received an email address, I’ve been drilling it into his head never to share ANY identifying information online.
Cut to – a week later…
I open an email from Tucker that he’s forwarded to me and some of his pals that invites us to play a fun game someone sent him called “Favorites of Your Favorite Friends!”
It starts out innocently enough asking your favorite TV show, band, sports team, breakfast food…
Then asks things like your favorite burger place, elementary school, grade, town, state…
It practically asks what time your parents are out running an errand and you’re all by yourself in your big empty house!!
And of course Tucker has enthusiastically answered all these questions and forwarded them to all his email contacts – so they can answer the questions and forward the game to all their email contacts!
“Tucker! Come in here, please!”
He lopes in and I show him the screen.
“Tucker! Didn’t we just have a discussion about how you never give out any identifying information about yourself online?”
He says, “Oh, yeah. But this is just about your favorite things so you can see if your friends have the same favorites you do.”
“Tucker, you listed the town and state where you live, what school you attend, what grade you’re in, the nearest burger place, hair color, eye color! This is IDENTIFYING information!”
“Oh, yeaaaaah,” he says, realizing his error. “But I didn’t think this was from a bad guy; it just looks like a game.”
“Exactly, Tucker! What did you expect? That you’d get an email from someone saying:
Hi my name is Paul.
I am a pedophile.
Please send me your identifying information.
Sincerely, Paul (you know — Paul the Pedophile)’”
I continue, “Good Lord, son, of course the criminals are going to figure out clever ways to get info about you! They’ll disguise it as a game — or make it look official — or whatever they think will get you to spill the beans! So when you get a survey like this, you don’t answer it and you don’t forward it! Are we clear?”
“Yes, yes, we’re clear!” he says. He walks out, chuckling and murmuring “Paul the Pedophile.”
Honestly, this kid! It’s a wonder he doesn’t come home with magic beans or a deed to swampland.
— Darcy Perdu
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(Do YOUR kids SEEM like they listen to your lectures, then do the exact opposite? Any funny examples when your kids seemed to miss the point — or interpret you too literally? Any accidental breaches in online security at YOUR house? Do tell in the Comments section!)