Teenangels.org - Official Blog

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Tips for teens...knowing what sites to trust

Kids and Teens: What to look for on a kid-friendly site

The WiredKids Division of WiredSafety has a large list of sites that are kid-friendly where most of the work has already been done for you. We have many terrific hand picked and reviewed sites. If you find a site not on our list, we’re happy to consider it. You can submit one to us at :[insert link to form]

Our URL for the safe sites listing is: http://www.wiredkids.org/safesites/star_search1.php

We already check these things for you, but if you want to go to another site that you find on your own there are some things you should know first. When you find a site that looks interesting, these are the things you should look for to make sure it is safe.

1. Privacy Policy...usually found on the home page at the very top or very bottom. It is often at places where they ask you to give them information, like at a registration form or when you login or signup for a contest.

This part of the site tells you if they collect personal information about you, how they collect it, and what they do with it. If there are chat rooms or message boards, sometimes they tell you if an adult moderates them. But not all sites tell you that in their privacy policy, so don’t assume. Ask before you chat.

If the privacy policy doesn’t tell you those things or you don’t find one, visit another site. Your privacy is worth protecting.

2. Chat rooms or message boards…usually found as links on the home page. When you click on the link, you should get a “sign in” page or window. You need to see if these are moderated and if you have to give personal information to sign in. You should always use a nick that is not part of your real name and does not show your age, gender, date of birth, or where you live.

If they ask you to sign in and register, check the privacy policy to see what they do with the information you gave them. If you don’t like what they tell you, or they don’t even bother telling you, chat elsewhere.

Also, you should know that a filtering program is not the same as a live moderator. And the good kid-chat sites use both. (Those kids can be tricky and type very fast. )

3. You should look to see if there is online shopping on the site and, if so, what they sell. Do they link to a big e-tailer, like Amazon, or do they sell their own products. Are the products appropriate for kids?

4. Kids should check with your parents before going into that part of the site. NEVER give out any payment information on an online shopping page without your parent’s permission. And no one (parents or kids) should give out credit card of payment information to any site that doesn’t use a secure link (look for a lock in the lower right corner of the page).

What about hidden charges? What does shipping cost? Sometimes after adding in the shipping charges, you can find things more cheaply and easily offline. Any e-tailers are now giving you free shipping to encourage your e-commerce.

Is the product new or refurbished (that may be a returned item that they fixed and resold). Do you know who the seller is? This is not a good time to search for a new seller no one has ever heard of or worked with. It’s very easy to be fooled by a slick website. And you want to make sure they’re around if something goes wrong.

Always use a credit card. Even if you are too young to have one, ask someone with a credit card to put it on theirs for you, and pay them yourself. You are better protected if something goes wrong, since your credit card company will usually fight for your rights and even credit your account for any fraudulent charges or charges for products that aren’t what they were promised.

If you pay with a money order or check, you don’t have those rights, and if anything goes wrong, you are generally out of luck.

5. You should look to see if you have to “register” to gain access to the site. Again, do not use real information about yourself unless your parents have gone over the registration with you and are sure that it is okay to do so. Some sites have a charge for registering so that you can access parts of the site that a visitor cannot access. Have an adult check this out before registering. If you are twelve years old or younger, in the U.S. there are laws against a website asking for your personal information.

6. Some sites have charges for “joining” clubs on the site or for receiving newsletters or other items that have to do with the site. You should check all of the links on the site’s home page before you “sign up” or “register” so that you know what to expect and what the site expects of you.

7. Look for a search engine on the site. If the search engine says, “search this site” it is probably safe and won’t turn up any inappropriate material. If the search engine has “search the WWW” or “search the Web” you will get a lot of sites you may not want to go to if you type in the wrong thing.

8. Next, does the website use pop-ups? Cookies? Adware or spyware downloads? Before downloading anything, check. Many spyware applications come hidden with something you really want to download. Others trick you into consenting, by hiding this information in the middle of a licensing agreement or terms of service that you have to click to accept if you want to visit the site or download anything.

9. Last, but not least, look over all the pages on the site and make sure you are comfortable with the content, the ads, the pop-ups, the games, and the chats. Once you are comfortable and you have checked with your parents on anything that is questionable, enjoy the site you have chosen. And if you think other kids might like it, recommend it to us. We love learning of new fun sites for kids.