Protecting Teen Online Business
How to Protect Teens Who Operate Online Businesses
The Internet has made quite a few enterprising teens proud business owners in recent years, thanks in part to parents who know how to protect teens who operate online businesses. Even adults are often victims to online predators seeking to stalk, steal, and abuse, and teens sometimes make even easier targets with their natural naivety and inexperience. The real danger here lies in the fact that most parents are not technologically savvy, and most could not even begin to understand how their teens are turning profits online. So how can a parent protect a teen business owner who knows more about the Web than they do? Fortunately, you don't have to be an expert at web business to know when danger is near. The following are tips that you can use to keep your teenager's online entrepreneurial pursuits safer and more fulfilling.
Teen online business protection rule #1: Always use a pen name. While teens do indeed have to market themselves in order to succeed, creating a pen name that can be used again and again is just as business smart as using a real name, and much safer (and it is a practice often used by adult online business owners, as well). While creating financial accounts such as with online banking or PayPal will require the use of a legal name, most other uses of personal names are unnecessary. Anything that links your teen's work to a website, service, or creative outlet can be used to find personal information. Therefore, a pen name should be used for absolutely everything.
Teen online business protection rule #2: Use a business email address for PayPal accounts. Because Web clients who pay through PayPal tools must usually enter your teen's email address to render payment, make sure that he/she has created an email address that cannot be traced to their personal email account. This is for both privacy reasons and to prevent spam and viruses. If an account becomes corrupt, your teen can easily create a new email address to link to their PayPal account, a process that is quite time consuming if a personal account is used.
Teen online business protection rule #3: Never click on payment links within emails. Even if an email says it comes from a known source and looks completely legitimate, most well known companies never add payment links within emails. Why? Because spammers and other online criminals can create sites that look exactly like official payment sites for other companies, and then use those to quickly gain your teen's payment information. It's that easy. Whenever a payment is being made, always go directly to the source by visiting the company's homepage and going from there.
Teen online business protection rule #4: Always purchase domain privacy. Whenever your teen purchases a new domain name for a website, even if the site is not live, anyone can look up the personal information that was used to purchase it, including your teen's name, address, and home telephone number. However, domain privacy can be purchased to avoid this problem. For just a few dollars a year, your teen can ensure that his/her information is protected from the public eye – and some providers, e.g. namecheap, provide it free the first year. Be sure your teen always uses a web host that provides this service, and that he/she purchases privacy for every single domain, whether in active use or not. Also, be sure to understand how much privacy your teen is buying, and what is actually concealed.
Teen online business protection rule #5: Use a P.O. Box or separate street address for all deliveries. While teens who own online businesses may need to use an address for deliveries, that doesn't mean they have to go posting their personal home address on the Web every day with routine transactions. A P.O. Box that is rented in a parent's name, or even a separate address such as a parent's workplace or another adult family member's home is a much safer route.
Teen online business protection rule #6: If things really start to take off, then it may be time to consider forming a company. There are a few benefits, but the two largest are increased professionalism and, you guessed it, privacy. Several states allow the owners of companies to remain anonymous. Their names are not recorded in any public records. This can prevent prying neighbors and online stalkers from ascertaining your child’s true identity. You can read more about privacy and anonymous ownership here.
Bonus Tip for Parents of Teen Online Business Owners: Beware of online addictions. That's right, teens (and adults, as well) can literally become addicted to the Internet. Compulsive email checking, constant game playing, and instant messaging are innocent but time consuming activities that not only take away from time spent on a business pursuit, but also deprive a teen of what may already be limited time away from the computer. While it does take a great deal of effort to create a profitable web business, be careful to watch your teen for excessive Internet usage. If your teen truly is working on business tasks twelve hours a day, respect his/her work ethic but insist upon more breaks and social time. After all, your teen has the rest of his/her life to work, but just a few short years to enjoy being a kid.