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Security is for Teenagers, Too

Created: 01 Apr 2008 • Updated: 08 Aug 2012
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Posted by Kerry Loftus

I drove my 13-year-old and his friends to one of their activities recently (yes, I have a minivan) and their conversation was really interesting and eye opening. I quickly called my gal pals in Erie, PA to find out if they were hearing the same and got the affirmative so this is not just a 'valley' phenomena. All of our kids are online and many are using various email, IM and social networking applications. Did you know that they all know each other's usernames and passwords? If they don't know the password part, they can very quickly guess (I chimed in at one point and asked them if they knew anything about 'strong passwords'-- most of them replied that they just use 'password'!). They didn't really think protecting the information was important.

It's probably harmless to sign in as your friend on IM and send one of the girls in your class a provocative message, but couldn't that be the tip of the iceberg? What about online harassment when pranks become more than just kid fun? Our kids are revealing more and more of themselves on the public internet everyday through these applications and many of us have done the right parental things in response. We know to put the computer in a more public spot in our house; we know to ask what they're doing online and periodically check over their shoulders. But did you know how easily kids can "become" each other online? By logging in their email, IM and social networking sites with their guessable usernames and passwords, it's pretty easy to impersonate almost anyone they know. In addition to these guessable usernames and passwords, I'd like to see my teenager's accounts protected with something he physically has in his possession (enter a second-factor one-time password credential). Let's give our kids real, permanent control over what they want to communicate to the rest of the world.