If your kids are wasting away their summer vacation online, you might want to set your Net Nanny to block at least one Website. Hackers have reportedly taken over a popular children’s site, and unsuspecting kids are loading up on malware as you read this.
Neopets, owned by Viacom, is one of those “adopt a cyber pet” spots where kids can play games and chat with other kids. Kids can play free, but a pay-to-play option means parents have been expressing concern over identity security issues. So far, Viacom said that’s not the issue – credit card numbers are safe.
Right now, the main problem seems to be messages sent via the Neopets bulletin boards, offering kids a chance to get a “magic paintbrush,” used on the site to paint their pets in different colors. Generally, kids have to buy them with Neopoints, the points earned via game play and “selling” things to one another on the site. But the offers to get them free are luring kids to click on a link to a “secret” Website. Click the link, and malware hops into the kids’ computers where it gets to work on doing what evil malware does.
Viacom says it’s working on the problem, and it isn’t an issue if kids aren’t clicking on the links.
My daughter doesn’t go online without my husband or I right there – she is generally sitting on our lap. She’s only four, so that’s a part of it, but my husband and I also depend on our computers for our livelihoods. We simply can’t risk her doing something because she doesn’t know any better. But I know a lot of families who let their kids go onto sites like these because there’s an assumption of safety.
Which only drives home why it’s a good idea to set up a “trash” computer for your kids if they’re old enough to go online. They don’t need the fastest set up or a full range of programs, so an old system that you’ve wiped of all identifying information works best – it’s also the cheapest option.
Do you let your kids use your computer?