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Ask an expert: My 13 year old daughter keeps getting rude messages and pictures posted on her website? How can I avoid this?

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Zoe E Breen Zoe E Breen | 10:18 UK time, Friday, 10 February 2012

Answered by our panel of experts:

Unfortunately the nature of the internet and particularly social media means that some users will abuse the technology and leave inappropriate content. The good news is that we are able to control our own profiles and websites and can choose who has access to them as well as who is able to leave comments and content.

It’s not clear whether this is a website your daughter has created herself which allows comments or if you are referring to a profile on a social networking site. However, in both cases your daughter will be able to determine who is able to post content and she should be able to block another user if they are posting inappropriate material.

It is possible that her account has been hacked. That means someone has either guessed or got hold of your daughter's password and so is able to gain access and do everything on the site as if they were your daughter. There is only one way to stop this happening. Get your daughter to change her password then make doubly sure she understands how important it is not to tell anyone else what it is.

We would recommend encouraging her to choose a secure password, ideally, a mix of upper and lower case letters and a number. It is also important to log out when she finishes using a social networking site, (and using a PIN to protect access to her mobile phone also helps to protect your information and data, and can help prevent access to your social networking profile).

Your daughter’s account may also have been attacked by malicious spam – similar to receiving spam through an email account, the same thing can happen with social networking users, where they find that their account has been taken over and spam is sent as if the user had sent it themselves. You can read more about this in Facebook’s Security page.

Spammers often advertise surprising things (for e.g. the opportunity to see who viewed your profile/timeline) to try to lure people into their spam traps. Facebook encourage users who think their account is sending out spam to do several things:

•    Secure their account by following these steps
•    Change their password
•    Run anti-virus software on their computer
•    Never click on suspicious links, even if they’re sent by your friends
•    Never copy and paste text into your internet browser address bar if you are unsure of what it is
•    Learn more about keeping your account secure

If it happens again it is just possible that your daughter's machine has been invaded by a virus or other piece of so-called malware. This would be a "key logger" or something similar. Key loggers can record every keystroke you make then send it off to whoever put it there in the first place.

Key loggers were thought to infest many machines in internet cafes so if your daughter used one to log on to her account that could be the way it happened. However, this may be unlikely as it is usually crooks involved in financial crimes that do that sort of thing.

Check that the anti virus software is up to date on your daughter’s machines and that the firewall is working. Get the anti virus software to do a check, just for your own and your daughter’s peace of mind. 

It’s great that she has told you and that you are already involved and able to help and support her through this. Too often young people feel vulnerable to the comments of others and aren’t always aware that things can be done.

Dialogue is crucial. Depending on the nature of the content you may feel that this needs to be reported to the police or to the social network provider or internet service provider (whoever is hosting the site). Some content may not be illegal but may well contravene the terms and conditions of the website in question.

The bottom line is that the owner of the site and profile can take control and doing so should hopefully empower your daughter to deal with this problem effectively.

If you are a parent and are worried about your teen or child over-sharing online visit the Share Take Care: Ask an expert page to read the advice our panel of experts gave other parents.

Visit the Share Take Care website for more information on help and support for parents.



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