LifeSmarts: teens’ technology education destination

By John Breyault, Vice President of Public Policy, Telecommunications and Fraud

The thought of teaching a modern teenager about technology may seem counterproductive to many people. Indeed, it is teens who seem to be the ones on the cutting edge of technology. The vast majority of teens not only use the latest social networking sites like Facebook, but they are also often inseparable from their cell phones.

Unfortunately, expertise about how to use these technologies doesn’t always equate to knowledge of how to do so safely.  Today, it is more important than ever for teens to know how to use technology wisely. For example, snooping on unsecure wifi connections (such as those found in many coffee shops) is increasingly easy for unscrupulous scam artists. Privacy, which for many Facebook-obsessed teens may seem to be an afterthought, could actually be critically important in college admissions and getting jobs later in life.  Online scholarship and grant scams is also an area where NCL has noticed an uptick as well.

Fortunately, there are tools and smart practices that teens can use to avoid some of the most common technology pitfalls. It is these good technology habits that LifeSmarts’ technology curriculum seeks to promote. LifeSmarts team members learn, for example, the importance of taking advantage of their privacy settings on Facebook to make sure third parties can’t get access to sensitive personal information. Knowing how to differentiate a secure Web site from an insecure one can save teens from having nasty malware surreptitiously installed on their computers. Understanding the importance of using strong passwords (as opposed to easy-to-guess common words) can save teens from seeing their laptops become part of a botnet or worse.

During National Consumer Protection Week, we urge teens and their parents to consider the important value of this knowledge in today’s 24/7 digitally-connected world. By becoming savvy technology consumers, LifeSmarts participants become better prepared to choose their own cell phone plans, get broadband service at their first apartments, and pass on lessons learned in LifeSmarts to friends, family members and, eventually, their own children.

For more information on the LifeSmarts technology curriculum, visit LifeSmarts.org. To learn more about National Consumer Protections Week, visit www.ncpw.gov.

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