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Ask Parry!

Ask Parry!

Questions and answers

Ask Parry! Ask Parry! is a service where Parry Aftab, noted online safety and privacy expert, and Executive Director of WiredSafety.org can answer your questions about online safety, privacy and security, and help you with problems you encounter online. Anything from help finding a safe chat room for your teens, to knowing what to do if the item you bought at auction doesn't arrive as promised.

Dear Parry

I have a 12 year old son who is addicted to contests. He used to enter every contest in the stores we went into, but now with having the Internet he is scanning contest sites every day after school to try and win. My husband thinks it is harmless but I am concerned this could be a dangerous hobby, what do you think?

An Overprotective Mom

Dear Overprotective Mom:

Actually you are right; this "could" be a dangerous hobby for your son - and your family! When entering contests online, you have to fill out a form that gives identifying information such as name, address, telephone, e-mail etc. Depending on the privacy policy of that particular site, this personal information could be sold to other companies. Have you suddenly noticed a sharp increase in the amount of SPAM you receive? Especially porn SPAM? Well, that suggests that your address has been sold with hundreds of thousands of other unsuspecting contest entrants. This is an annoying problem, but the true danger could be if your family's address and phone number fall into the wrong hands.

In the US, a law was adopted in 2000 that makes it illegal for commercial sites to collect this kind of information from your child (under the age of 13 yrs) without your consent. How you have to provide consent depends on how they intend to use this information. You may want to check out the information at our site about COPPA (The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act), to learn more.

You may also want to keep an eye on your son's surfing, since many children are being enticed into gambling at real gambling sites. These may be illegal in certain countries, and often do not pay winnings. Teens are getting targeted by these offshore gambling sites, and losing their newspaper delivery, babysitting and birthday money. Talk to him and find out if it's the recognition he is looking for, or the prize itself. Then work with him to find another activity that gives him what he is seeking, safely and privately.

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