5 Internet Life Lessons Parents Need to Start Teaching Kids

#2. Assume Everything is a Scam, and You'll Almost Always be Right

Repeat after me, kids: nothing is truly free. People who offer you free things on the internet in exchange for some action on your part (a download, a reply, an account number) are trying to trick you and rob you.

In general, if you receive an email from someone you don't know, there's a very good chance that it's either an advertisement or a flat-out scam. Some subject lines will be obvious, if not somewhat intriguing ("chemical spillz in pussy orphanage ROLAX!") so just delete them and forget they ever existed. However, some will be harder to spot. And at some point in your life you will fall for one.

For instance, so-called "419 scams" appear to be actual emails from actual people, complete with a tear-jerking story of some horrible thing that happened to a coworker, friend, or family member. They will make a very convincing case that they live outside the United States, and they have this money that they cannot access without your help. If you could just give them some of your personal information and your bank account number, they could transfer this money to you, and in return you can keep some of it.

Bullshit, right? You wouldn't believe how many people actually fall for it. Smart people. These scammers are con artists whose entire livelihood depends on eventually figuring out a way to fool you. They'll keep trying. They'll play on your sympathy, or your loneliness, or your guilt. But at the center of it they're really playing on your desire to get something for nothing.

You can never be too cynical about this. Don't even bother responding. Just delete it. Nothing is truly free. Write it on your monitor with a Sharpie.

Right above "never trust Nigerian royalty".

Likewise, you'll run into sites offering everything from free online gaming, free online casinos, free screen savers, free video game hacks, whatever. All you need to do is download this toolbar that oh by the way will spawn popup ads on every site you visit and track every move you make online.

Also, watch out for official-looking emails from your email host or Facebook or your bank or any other online service you can possibly use, asking for your login information. They'll claim your account is in some kind of danger and that you have to follow a link they gave you that, in reality, leads to a dummy page intended to steal your password.

PC gaming is rampant with this, WoW players are inundated with in-game messages from "official Blizzard employees." Always remember that in an online game, the makers will never ask you for your username and password.

In fact, the same is true for the rest of the internet. If someone asks you for that information, don't give it to them.

All right. Let's not put this one off any longer. But you're not going to be a kid forever and at some point you're going to need to know to...

#1. Be Responsible with Porn

By far, the easiest way to stay safe where porn sites are concerned is to not go to one. But that's like telling you that the easiest way to avoid gaining weight is to not eat junk food. It's true, but... you're going to reach a certain age where statistically your odds of looking at porn are close to 100%. It's better to acknowledge the stuff exists and encourage responsibility than pretend you'll eat nothing but celery for the rest of your life.

There's a time for bacon, is the message here.

First of all, exercise some goddamned common sense. People get fired every day for looking at porn. Do not look at porn at work. School is another no-no. The connections there are monitored, and you will get caught if "Boob Titford's Tittyworld" shows up on their network. If you honestly have to see some porn so badly that you can't wait until you get home and watch it in private, you need help. Come talk to me. It'll be weird but nothing you're doing is going to shock me. I'm not entirely sure I haven't appeared in some porn at some point.

Second, remember your rules for spam email. Porn offers that come through mail are extremely likely to lead to a link that will hijack your computer. If you don't know someone who can clean it out for you, you'll be spending a couple hundred dollars to get it fixed and from then on every time you walk into the computer shop, the repair guy will give you a knowing smirk that says he knows you like the interracial stuff.

Stick to physical media for really nasty kinks.

Third, and most important, get your porn from a clean source. There are mainstream sites with legal disclaimers that operate in the open and are completely free. If, instead, you wind up at some anonymous pic-trading site you can wind up with porn that can send your ass to jail. You're going to wind up with shit that was filmed with an underaged girl in a Ukrainian mobster's basement.

Registered sex offenders tend not to get scholarships.

I haven't covered everything in this article -- it's not possible, considering scammers have thought up a dozen new cons in the time it took me to write it -- and you'll still have to learn some lessons the hard way, through embarrassing trial and error. And when it happens, you'll be able to look back at this article and realize that you should have goddamned paid attention like I told you.

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