Teens Report High Levels of Texting While Driving – Parents Poor Role Models

November 18, 2009

The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project released a report Monday that found 25% of 16 to 17yr-olds who have cellphones say they text while driving.

The study also found that nearly half of Americans ages 12 to 17 say they’ve been in cars with someone who texted while behind the wheel.

However, perhaps the most disappointing finding was that teens say their parents are also texting behind the wheel. Pew found that “the frequency of teens reporting parent cellphone use behind the wheel in our focus groups was striking, and suggested, in many cases, that texting while driving is a family affair.”

Research by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found even higher texting frequency. Their data indicates that 81% of U.S. residents said they have used their cellphone while driving, and that of the 82% of 16- to 17-year-olds who have cellphones, 52% said they use them while driving.

Teens know the risks – just think it won’t happen to them

“Many teens understand the risks of texting behind the wheel,” said Amanda Lenhart, co-author of the Pew report, “but the desire to stay connected is so strong for teens and their parents that safety sometimes takes a back seat to staying in touch with friends and family.”

For more information about the risks of texting and driving (like the stat saying Drivers who text behind the wheel have a 23 x greater risk of crashing), read my blogs:


Microsoft Updates their Online Safety Website

November 6, 2009





To address advances in technologies (to so-called Web 2.0), Microsoft has redesigned their Consumer Online Safety Education website at www.microsoft.com/protect.

Caveat: LOOKBOTHWAYS provided the content for Microsoft’s brochure series, as well as some other materials for the site. We are also listed as a resource on their community page.

The site is clean, easy to navigate and has updated, relevant materials to help protect yourself, your family, your computers and I recommend the site.

In addition to solid advice on Internet safety, security and privacy topics, be sure to check out some of their other features:

Sadly, my all-time favorite Microsoft safety video is not on the site – it uses a little live mouse to teach concepts. Maybe they’ll get it on the site shortly…


Mainstream USA Embraces Technology

November 5, 2009

According to a new study by Forrester Research , a marketing firm based in Cambridge, Mass., newer technologies are no longer dominated by ‘early adopters’ or ‘geeks’. Their research, found that Americans love and use technology:

  • 50% of US adults are gamers
  • 63% of US households have a broadband Internet connection
  • 75% of US households have cellphones and PCs
  • Nearly 10 million US households (out of nearly 118 million) added an HDTV in the last year, a 27% increase 2007.

“There’s really no group out of the tech loop,” said Forrester analyst Jacqueline Anderson, one of the study’s authors. “America is becoming a digital nation. Technology adoption continues to roll along, picking up more and more mainstream consumers every year.”

The broad adoption of technologies is fantastic, but does have implications for online safety. Simply talking about how to stay safe while on a computer isn’t enough. Make sure you know how, and teach children how to stay safe using their cell phone, internet connected game consoles, and other connected devices.


New tool calculates Your ID Theft Risk

November 3, 2009

newtool1Symantec has released a new Risk Calculator tool that lets you get a sense of how much your information is worth to online thieves, and how at risk you are to having that information stolen.

It’s a useful tool for not only understanding the underground economy, but for reviewing your own online actions from a security perspective.


42% of Americans “Can’t Live” Without Cell Phone, Half Sleep With One

November 2, 2009

A new global mobile-phone survey from Synovate shows how attached Americans are to their cell phones, and how US phone patterns vary from global standards. Check out these stats:


  • 82% of Americans say they never leave home without their phones vs. 75% globally
  • 50% of Americans sleep with their phone nearby
  • 42% of Americans say they “can’t live” without their mobile phone vs. 36% globally)
  • 33% of Americans own at least 2 cell phones vs. 23% globally
  • 21% of Americans now own a smartphone
  • 33% of US respondents agreed they did not know how to use most of the features on their phones
    • 56% of Americans regularly use the Alarm clock feature vs. 67% globally
    • 68% of Americans use their phone’s camera vs. 62% globally
    • 31% of Americans play games on their pohone vs. 33% globally

Text messaging patterns in romance:

  • 36% of Americans have flirted with their partners by text vs. 33% globally
  • 16% of Americans have flirted with someone other than their partners vs.15% globally (but Brits (26%) and Russians (24%) top the list)
  • 9% of Americans have set up a first date via text vs. 20% globally

Text messaging patterns and bad news

  • 4% of Americans have broken up with someone via text vs. 12% globally (23% of Filipinos break up via text)
  • 5% of Americans have been dumped via text vs. 8% globally (20% of Malaysians have been dumped this way)
  • 71% of Americans agreed that they have hidden behind text to say no or send a difficult message vs. 35% globally. Least likely to hide behind text are Canadians 79% say they haven’t done this.
  • Only 21% of Americans say they have lied about why they were running late or where they are vs. 31% globally. Biggest liars are the Filipinos where 57% admitted to lying about why they were late or their location.

The US and the UK lead the way in mobile functions that require 3G access:

  • 26% of US respondents use email on their cell phone on a regular basis vs. 17% globally
  • 26% of Americans browse the internet from their phone vs. 17% globally. (In the UK 31% browse via phone)
  • Eleven percent say they social network regularly via mobile, again led by the UK (17%) and the US (15%).

Common Safety Mistakes and Abuses on Twitter

October 29, 2009

The world of Twitter is experiencing an unprecedented growth rate according Nielsen Online in their report The Fastest Growing Social Sites. Twitter reached more than 13 million people in the U.S. during the month of April, – and that doesn’t count use through clients like TweetDeck or Seesmic Desktop.

Like other social media tools, Twitter is a fun and rich medium for communication but Twitter adds an even more accelerated element of immediacy. When confined to 140 characters, users primarily jot quick notes about what they’re doing or point to an interesting URL. Whether your goal is to keep friends and family updated, expand your footprint in the blogosphere, meet new and interesting people, promote yourself or your brand, educate, conduct research, sell, or exploit others, the opportunities on Twitter are endless.

uniquevisitorstwitterTwitter users generally aren’t teens, in fact, the median age of tweeters is 31. Given this generally more experienced age group, it is interesting to note that many Twitter using adults make the same safety mistakes that they censure teens for online:

  1. Failure to consider what information they share: what is actually being shared; the value of information being shared; and making appropriate decisions about whether information should be shared
  2. Failure to identify trustworthiness or lack of trustworthiness – of the people, Web sites, content, and businesses they interact with
  3. Failure to understand predatory behavior and motives in the broadest sense, including bullies, stalkers, scammers, thieves, and sexual predators

Common Safety Mistakes

Information shared on Twitter or any other online site collects over time. If you only share public information, or you only allow close friends and family to follow you, go for it. However, if you share personal information more broadly, your risks increase with each contribution.

Consider the entire pool of information available about you online, not simply what is shared in a single comment. By the time you include public government records, phone directory listings, workplace bios, club/team/church information, charitable donations, your friends blogs, and your own contributions you may be surprised how quickly someone can learn enough to steal your identity, embarrass you, or threaten you, your family or your possessions.

  1. Using full names – there are clear reasons for using your full name when tweeting if your aim is to build your social capital and credibility, but if your goal is simply to socialize, skip the name and use an alias.
  2. Location tweeting – many tweeters share too much information about where they live and the places they frequent. If you don’t want someone showing up on your doorstep, your office, or anywhere else uninvited, consider reducing your ‘findability-factor’.
  3. Exposing family members – naming spouses, kids etc, or giving their locations – “picking up Rachel from Carl Sandburg” increases their risks. You don’t want to provide information that could help someone approach them with a convincing story
  4. Vacation tweeting – announcing that you’re headed out on vacation is essentially posting a sign saying “my home will be empty, please rob me”, or “my family will be home without me”. If you want to tweet about vacations, do it after you’re home, but consider the next point…
  5. Inferred information – often what you say carries a great deal of additional information. For example, a comment that says you just registered on a dating site lets the reader assume you’re single and looking to meet people. Saying you’re headed to Australia for vacation infers information about your financial status, the opportunity to check your mailbox for interesting bills, credit card offers, etc. – as well as the vacancy of your home.
  6. Over sharing – Twitter is for socializing, not for sharing every detail of your life.
  7. Emotional exposure – sharing your emotions with people you don’t know well is a significant risk factor. If you’re sad they have the opportunity to comfort you, if you’re happy, they’ll reach out to share that, and so on. One of the quickest ways for a criminal to gain your trust is to provide emotional support.
  8. Misplaced trust – forwarding links, particularly shortened links, is a key activity in Twitter, but how do you know if those links are safe or taking you to malicious sites? Consumer Reports just highlighted the issues with clicking on tweeted URL’s in their article  Tweet URLs may be tiny, but they can also be dangerous.

How crooks and creeps use Twitter

Most Twitter users are great people having a good time, some aren’t. Crooks and creeps find a myriad of opportunities on Twitter, just as they do through other online communication sites. Here are a few of the more common issues:

  1. Offensive content – you receive an invitation from a ‘woman’ (who knows?) who started who sent him an extremely explicit image of herself along with an invitation for more.
  2. Scams – it’s a new medium for the same kind of scams that run through emails, IM’s, and blog comments. Usually including links to infected sites
  3. Harvesting information – particularly contact info to resell and reuse for other exploits via spam, phone, snail mail etc.
  4. Stalking – this may be by ex’s or people you don’t know who begin to obsess about you and includes showing up at your home, workplace, kids school, church, events, clubs, etc.
  5. Reputational attacks – collecting information for offline attacks, or leveraging your twitter network to smear you. This may come from someone with a grudge against you in particular, or from trolls just wanting to be mean. A troll is someone who posts controversial, inflammatory, irrelevant or off-topic messages in an online community.
  6. ID theft – criminals trawl for information that helps them commit ID theft. This may be by gleaning information to impersonate a trusted resource, or by collecting enough profile pieces to collect the information needed to steal your ID.

Want to learn more?

  • Watch Consumerman Herb Weisbaum’s TV segment where he talk’s about Twitter risks with Linda and Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna.
  • Gain some skills, check out PCmag.com’s Top 10 Twitter Tips for Beginners

Think through what you are sharing and who you are sharing with before you tweet, and you’ll stay safer while having fun.


Employers ARE Looking – Nearly Half Screen Candidates Social Networks or Blogs

October 24, 2009

“Be careful of what information you post publicly online, it could come back to bite you” is standard Internet safety advice, but a new survey by CareerBuilder underscores why this advice is more relevant than ever.

Their survey found that social networking sites are now canvassed by 45% of employers looking to screen potential employees – more than doubling the number of employers that used these tools last year (22%).  Another 11% of employers plan to start using social networking sites to screen job seekers in the future.

Unsurprisingly, the most common places employers search are Facebook (29%), LinkedIn (26%), and MySpace (21%). Blog searches command another 10% of employer searches and 7% check Twitter.

Social bloggers and posters aren’t filtering what they share

A whopping 35% of employers said they found information or content during their online searches of potential job candidates that caused them to reject the candidate.

While it should come as no surprise that posting inappropriate content, information about drinking and drug use, or lying about qualifications torpedoed would-be employees, you may be less aware about other pitfalls.

Bad-mouthing previous employers or sharing their confidential information is a job killer, as are poor communication skills – so while messages like WorKN HArD 2 KEEP IT EZ C NEW MUZIK ON DA PAGE may look cool to friends, it’s not winning points with employers – nor are the discriminatory comments and trash talk that is frequently dispensed.

Top examples of content sited as reason to not hire a candidate include:

  • 53% of candidates posted provocative or inappropriate photographs or information
  • 44% posted content about them drinking or using drugs
  • 35% bad-mouthed their previous employer, co-workers or clients
  • 29% showed poor communication skills
  • 26% made discriminatory comments
  • 24% lied about qualifications
  • 20% shared confidential information from previous employer

If you have these types of content on your site make it private, clean it up – or expect to have a harder time getting employment.

Some content helps land the job

The lesson to learn isn’t “don’t post content” it’s learn what is appropriate to share and with whom. The study also found that content on your site can significantly improve your chances in the job market. 18% of employers said information they found on social networking sites led them to hire the candidate.

Top examples of content that positively swayed employers hiring decisions include:

  • 50% said a profile provided a good feel for the candidate’s personality and fit within the organization
  • 39% said the profile supported candidate’s professional qualifications
  • 38% said the profile showed the candidate was creative
  • 35% said the candidate showed solid communication skills
  • 19% said other people posted good references about the candidate

With record numbers of unemployed people searching for work, competition for good positions is fierce. Dressing and presenting yourself appropriately for the interview is no longer enough, you need to be sure your online ‘style’ conveys the same message.

What happens online doesn’t stay online.


Economic Divide? Affluent Internet Users More Likely to Use Facebook, Lower Income Users on MySpace

October 21, 2009

Americans using social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace or LinkedIn are generally more  affluent and urban than the average American. Yet when Nielsen Claritas overlaid a panel of over 200,000 participants with their 66 demographic and behavioral segmentation scheme, they found some significant differences in user’s social networking service preferences based on their economic status.

  • Facebook users have a largely upscale profile. The top third of lifestyle segments relative to affluence were 25% more likely to use Facebook than those in the those in the lower third.
  • The bottom third segments related to affluence are 37% more likely to use MySpace than those in the top third
  • Users of Facebook were also much more likely to use LinkedIn, a network geared towards business and professional networking, than those who use MySpace

The research also found that bloggers and tweeters aren’t necessarily more affluent, but they do live in more urban areas such as New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago. Penetration rates of the top two most visited blogging platforms, Blogger and WordPress, and Twitter show that Nielsen’s 12 Urban lifestyle segments are more likely to blog and tweet than their 22 Town & Rural segments.


Join the Podcast: A Safer Internet With Linda Criddle

October 19, 2009

saferdates1Upcoming Radio/Podcast Show: 10/27/2009 4:00 PM (Pacific Time)

Call-in Number: (718) 766-4680

Join Safer Dates as we celebrate “National Cyber Security Awareness Month” by interviewing Linda Criddle, president of the Safe Internet Alliance, an organization devoted to promoting a safe Internet and better education to protect all users, especially children, teens and the elderly, from Internet corruption, crime, and abuse by driving initiatives through industry, education, government, and non-profit entities.

Linda is also the founder and President of LOOKBOTHWAYS, Inc., a company that develops internet safety technologies and products while providing product design, safety reviews, and other consulting services to leading technology companies, regulatory bodies, and law enforcement, as well as offering practical assistance to consumers navigating the online world through a consumer internet safety site, iLOOKBOTHWAYS.com.

Linda collaborates with local, state, national and international law enforcement agencies, teaching how to understand and track predators online. She works with government organizations in the U.S. and around the world to advise on, and prepare, internet safety regulations and legislation. In addition, Linda is an author of the award-winning consumer-oriented books, “Look Both Ways: Help Protect Your Family on the Internet,” and “Using the Internet Safely for Seniors For Dummies.” She has also written “Internet Safety for Educators”, a distance-learning course offered through Universities.

Our interview will explore tools to empower you to have a safer internet experience. The future of the internet is up to all of us. So let us join together and help promote an internet ethic of respect and accountability online.

Hope you can join us,


As Online Dating Grows, So do Scams

October 18, 2009

Online dating can claim some remarkable results:

  • There are now about 1,400 online dating sites in North America.
  • In 2007 one in eight married couples met first online, that number continues to increase.
  • 40% of the US single population now uses online dating sites, roughly equal to 40 million people, according to Match.com,
  • Match.com grows by 60,000 new members daily.
  • Americans who search for love online spend over 2 hours a night talking to prospective dates
  • Over $500 million dollars have been spent so far this year on internet dating sites according to Iovation.
  • Forrester Research reports that online dating is now the third largest producer of revenue out of all paid content sites, generating $957 million in 2008; a figure the firm predicts will grow 10 percent by 2013.

That’s a lot of people representing a lot of money.

When done with caution, online dating can be safer than meeting people in the “real” world because you have more time to get to know someone before meeting him or her in person. I personally know many happy couples who would never have met their spouses had it not been for online dating sites.

But dating online requires you take steps to protect yourself…

Predators follow their prey

As in any environment, abusers, criminals and predators follow wherever potential victims can be found, and with the number of online daters soaring, it should come as no surprise that crooks from around the world are hard on dater’s heels.

Last month Google found that search terms like “online dating” and “free dating” are getting the most hits from fraudsters in African countries, and police forces around the world are bracing for an explosion in scams as East African countries move from dialup to broadband speeds in June 2010 allowing African scammers to rival counterparts in former soviet block western countries.

Common progression in a dating scam

  1. The scammer posts an attractive photo (stolen) and fake profile on a dating website.
  2. Scammer sends a mass message to members with canned text.
  3. If the scammer gets a reply, they begin showing interest in the victim and ask if the victim wants to know more about the scammer.
  4. At some point the scammer will share their email address in an attempt to get the victim out of the monitored dating environment and away from any safeguards that help protect the victim’s identity. They may want to converse via IM, phone calls, even webcams. They may suggest sexually explicit interactions via web cam or compromising photos of the victim for resale and/or blackmail later.
  5. Conversations progress until the scammer believes they have secured the victim’s trust and emotions, and then begin introducing a story about how they are having difficulties and need your help in some way. The story will be customized to further gain sympathy and affection from the victim.
  • At some point the scammer will ask for money (sent as cash, money orders, merchandise, or currency exchange through a service like Western Union). Or suggest you pay for a plane ticket so you can meet, or ask you to accept shipment of items to forward to someone else, or to cash a check for them and place the money in a specific account (you’ll be stuck when the check bounces and you have to cover the cost).
  • As long as the victim continues to believe, the scammer will keep asking for money. In some cases victims loose tens of thousands of dollars.

Learn more about romance scams at RomanceScams.org

Not all dating are equal when it comes to protecting your safety.

The first rule of thumb is to trust your instincts when interacting with a potential date. Select your online dating service carefully. Look for an established, popular site with plenty of members and a philosophy that matches your own.

Some sites do extensive background screening, have active moderation teams watching for scams, and strict privacy measures to help protect you, others have no such safeguards in place. I can’t recommend a site that offers you no protection. With 1,400 online dating sites to choose from, select what works for you.
Follow these safety tips:

  1. Maintain anonymity to protect your identity. Don’t include your full name, phone number, where you work, or detailed location information in your profile or during early communications with potential dates. Stop communicating with anyone who presses you for this type of information.
  2. Use the e-mail system provided by the dating service rather than your own e-mail address to maintain your privacy.
  3. Be smart about choosing profile pictures. Make sure your photos reflect what you want to say about yourself. Provocative pictures may attract the wrong people. Make sure that your images do not contain identifying information such as nearby landmarks or a T-shirt with your school or company logo.
  4. Check to see if a potential date has a good reputation among other daters on the service.
  5. Be realistic. Read the profiles of others with skepticism. As you correspond or talk on the phone, ask questions, seek direct answers, and note any inconsistencies. Look for danger signs such as a display of anger, an attempt to control you, disrespectful comments, or any physically threatening or otherwise unwelcome behavior.
  6. If a person becomes abusive, report it and block that person from contacting you again using the dating site settings.
  7. When you decide to meet, create a safe environment. Keep first dates short, and agree to meet in a public place during a busy time of day, Make sure somebody knows where you’re going. If your date doesn’t look like his or her photo, walk away and report that person to the dating service.
  8. If a date asks you for a loan or any financial information, no matter how sad the hard luck story, it is virtually always a scam and you should report it.

With dating scams increasing, you simply can’t afford to date online without knowing how to spot and avoid risks.



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