You can also use online filters to protect your kids by setting keyword controls on your children's computers to prevent them from visiting sites. This will limit their ability to surf the Web for content that you do not feel they should see. For example, you can block Google Images on searches or inappropriate videos on YouTube and not allow online chat rooms. An important note about filters is that many of them do not work on gaming devices that are Internet connected, like PlayStations and Wii entertainment systems. I recommend that these devices not be connected to the Internet.
Cell phones are also a major vulnerability for your children. I would be hesitant to even give a child a cell phone, and if I did, I would make it a limited-use phone for emergencies only. There are phones that have only a handful of buttons. Some allow only 911 calls to be made and a few preprogrammed numbers to be dialed such as mom or dad. I would also recommend you not give your children phones with Internet access. If they need to do online research they can do it at home, under supervision. I do see the advantages of giving your children phones in case of an emergency or so you can track where they are with locator software. When your teenage daughter says she is at the mall, but you can see via GPS she is not, you can address the problem and keep her safe.
Does your child have a MySpace or Facebook account? If so do you check it, do you know the user name and password, do you ever check what they are saying, what they are doing, who they are talking to? If not bad things may happen.
Does your child have an e-mail account? Do you check it? Now I know some readers feel this is a horrible practice because it tells your children you do not trust them and such micromanaging may actually backfire on you and cause them to rebel even more. But this is not as big a threat as being clueless, not knowing what is going on, and not being involved.
Controlling all information or even what information about you and your family makes it onto the Web is impossible. With a lot of effort, however, you can have some success and limit your exposure.
When dealing with businesses or government agencies online, try to provide the least amount of personal information possible. Don't print a residential address, phone number, or driver's license number on your checks. Carry the minimum amount of personal information in your wallet in case it is lost or stolen. And omit your middle initial on forms to help you blend in with the crowd and make it harder for someone to find you, or confirm that you are the person they are looking for.
You really want to avoid getting on many lists in the first place. The result will be a reduction in the presence of your name, home address, and phone number in the information marketplace, thereby making that information less available. As an added bonus, you will also see a reduction in the volume of junk mail and telemarketing calls you receive.
Don't fill out sweepstakes entry forms; chances are good you will not win that car. Sweepstakes and contests are often a means of gathering names and addresses for marketing purposes. Also, don't fill out surveys attached to product warranty registration cards. You do not have to complete and return the cards to enjoy your warranty rights.
Consider renting a private PO Box. While the residential addresses of holders of Post Office boxes are generally confidential, the U.S. Postal Service will give a residential address to a government agency or to persons serving court papers, based on the verification of an attorney that a case is pending. Private mailbox companies are usually stricter and require an original copy of a subpoena before releasing residential addresses of box holders. If you use these services, write the address as "Apartment 123" or "Unit 123," rather than "Box 123."