Summer Movie Offers Chance to Talk Online Security with Teens

Aug 4, 2013 11:55pm

by Karen Clark,

The Bling Ring, a new movie this summer starring Emma Watson and directed by Sofia Coppola, is based on the true story of a group of teenagers who used social media to identify celebrities who weren’t at home – and then rob them. 

The plot combines many elements that appeal to teens: Hollywood, celebrities, luxury, fashion, and naïve recklessness. Parents can find a takeaway, too – the opportunity to speak with their teens about the information they share online and the risks involved. As The Bling Ring demonstrated, what is posted online can lead to very unintended consequences (such as, in Paris Hilton’s case, the theft of $2 million in jewelry).  

Here are some topics to speak with your child about when it comes to posting on social media.

Own Your Online Presence

The Bling Ring crew used publicly accessible social media posts by celebrities to determine their whereabouts and then burglarized vacant homes. While your family may not be targeted the way Hollywood celebrities are, don’t make the same mistake. A post like, "Going away with the family for Fourth of July!" or posting pictures from your hotel could serve as a helpful tip for a prowling burglar if they’re able to read it.

Remind your teens to own their online presence; it’s OK to limit how and with whom he or she shares information. Encourage your teens to set the privacy and security settings on accounts to their comfort level for information sharing.

Protect Your Personal Information

Personal information posted online can be misused in a lot of unpleasant ways, including identity theft and stalking. According to the Center for Missing and Exploited Children, two in five missing teenagers ages 15 to 17 are abducted in connection with some kind of Internet activity.

Encourage your teen to be cautious about the personal information they share on social networking sites. Your teen should never reveal his or her address or phone number and use extra precautions to meet an online acquaintance, like going with a group of friends. Remind your teen not to accept friend requests from people they do not know.

Be A Good Online Citizen

The online harassment of teens by their peers has become a growing concern for parents. Unlike getting pushed at the playground, the emotional abuse that occurs online is harder for parents to detect. Make sure your teen knows that he or she can always talk to you if bullying becomes a concern. Remind your teen that he or she is not alone. The 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey found that 16 percent of high school students were electronically bullied during the previous year.

If your teen is being bulled, help them know what actions to take, such as:

  • Block the bully’s account. And report it to the site administrator, if possible.
  • Avoid escalating the situation. Responding with hostility is likely to provoke a bully. Depending on the circumstances, consider ignoring the issue. Often, bullies thrive on the reaction of their victims.
  • Document cyberbullying (or other unwanted contact). Keep a record of any online activity (emails, web pages, social media posts, etc.), including dates and times. Keep both an electronic version and a printed copy.

Get more tips for parents about social networking sites and cyberbullying

An opening for communication

The Bling Ring creates a great opportunity to talk with your kids constructively about online safety. Don’t miss the chance to share these security tips with your kids, and look for other “entry points” in the television shows and movies you watch with them to reinforce these lessons.

Karen is currently the editor for where she has been writing about personal safety for more than 5 years.  She is the mother of three, a CSU San Marcos graduate, and a believer that education and awareness are the keys to change.