Internet Safety: Tips for Using GPS-based Websites
Knowing how to work and play safely with GPS-based sites such as FourSquare is paramount. They are gaining in popularity and can pose security risks to unwitting users. These sites are member based and involve frequent “check-ins” from members via a cell phone app that uses the phone’s geolocation technology – the technology that gives the real world geographic location of the phone and, by extension, whoever has the phone. Those status updates are then sent out to social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter, increasing the exposure of the member’s current location.
A few precautions will keep site users safe from cyberstalkers.
- Consider the person’s age. GPS-based sites and apps are really not appropriate for children. A bit of maturity goes a long way toward keeping a site member safe. Thirteen is a reasonable age to grant use of these services, but several sites don’t even allow users under age 18. Consider both the service and the age and maturity of the child who will use it.
- Post avatars or photos of pets as identifiers for young people who do use these sites. They absolutely should not post real pictures of themselves as identifiers, as these can pose security risks.
- Check in often with apps downloaded to a young person’s phone. Ask what the apps are, and if an app involves sharing the child’s location, check his/her friends list. If the child’s cell is on a family plan, these apps can be blocked by a parent from download. Otherwise, frequent hands-on checks of the child’s cell is the best approach.
- Make certain that friends who receive GPS updates are real-life friends and not members of an extended network that might include any number of unknowns. Confirm that the security settings of the site/app allow only wanted followers.
- Consider “checking in” at a location as you are leaving, rather than upon arrival, to minimize the chance of an unwanted encounter with someone unknown.
Parents should remind their children about the potential dangers of talking to strangers. As cliché as the lesson sounds, the discussion is certainly warranted.
Tagged as: cyber stalking, friends, information sharing, Internet Safety, Mobile, Privacy Online, safety, Social Networking Safety, teens online health