Monday, July 5, 2010

Mommy, what's a password?

It started simply enough. One day the munchkin is watching PBS Kids and the next thing you know, she wants to visit her favorite shows online. Which is fun, of course. (Although it means I get booted off my computer.) But then Channel 13 promoted their Kids Club, and my daughter wanted to join up.

And so I found myself helping her register online for the first time ever, for anything, and getting her a login and password. I scribbled it down on a piece of paper for her but I can't find it now. Probably because I'm not ready to. I can barely keep track of my own passwords and email accounts and logins and blah, blah, blah. I can't imagine having to help her track this, but more importantly I wonder about the future and trying to protect her online.

Now of all the places she could go, PBS Kids is probably the best. I don't feel I need to worry too much about her on their site, or what public television would do with her information. But it sets a precedent. One password begets another. And while I know that privacy is dead, especially in this country, I would like to make at least some attempt to have my kid's privacy live just a bit longer. Like at least through grade school.
Is this too much to ask?

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (a wonderful civil rights group focused on the digital world) offers this advice to parents: check out the privacy policy of anything your kids want to sign up for so you can see what kind of information is being collected. We should also educate our children "about the dangers involved in giving personal information to strangers they meet on the Net. Make sure your children don't give out personal information to people they don't know."

There is also the old advice about putting the family computer in a place where you can see what the kids are doing online. Of course, this is already outdated advice for anyone whose children have a texting obsession and a smart phone.

In the meantime, the request to go online and login seem to have fallen by the wayside here. But the issue won't go away anytime soon, I know. My brother brought home a box of Kellogg's Frosted Mini-Wheats this weekend and the box is covered with a Toy Story 3 promotional tie in. But gone are the days where you can just get a toy in the box. No, for this promotion, you needed to get a code off the box and then go on to the Kellogg's site and set up a Rewards account.

What the heck? Why can't they just put a plastic toy in the box? Or ask the kids to mail in the code? But no, better to lure them in. All the better to track you my dear.
I have already fallen for this game with Tropicana. I don't need my kid to succumb to it as well.

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