Candy for Cookies

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Kids say the darndest things. Give them expensive presents and they'll say even more. According to a new report from the Annenberg Public Policy Center, 22 percent of kids aged 10 to 17 would happily provide personal information - including their name and address - to their favorite store's Web site in exchange for a free gift of an undisclosed amount. Considering that 18 percent of their parents say they would do the same, that doesn't sound too bad. But increasing the value of the gift, from $25 to $50 to $100, boosts the chances that kids would give up the goods. In fact, 45 percent of minors say they would hand over personal info online for a $100 gift, whereas just 29 percent of their parents would do so.

The report, "The Internet and the Family 2000," comes on the heels of the enforcement of the 1998 Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, which began in April. The act, which ordered the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to regulate data collection on sites that target children under the age of 13, requires Web sites to get a parent's permission before requesting information from children about themselves or their families.

The FTC rules may consider youngsters 13 and over to be "adults" when it comes to disclosure of information on the Web, but 60 percent of parents surveyed say they're more worried about what information a teenager would give away to a Web site than a younger child. In fact, 96 percent of parents believe that teenagers should have to get their parents' consent before giving out information online.

What do the kids think? Surprisingly, 79 percent of 10- to 17-year-olds also think teenagers should have to get their folks' permission before posting the family skeletons on the Net. And they're not naove about the collection of personal data online either. Seventy-three percent look to see if a Web site has a privacy policy before answering any questions. And, even when companies say they won't share information gathered online with other businesses or advertisers, only 41 percent of respondents trust them.

So, are your family's secrets safe? Maybe not. Even though more than 60 percent of parents and kids say that they have actually discussed how to deal with Web information requests, 36 percent of the kids admit that they gave out information that mom and dad considered inappropriate. A closer look might explain why: When examining the responses of parents and their own children, researchers found that fewer than half of the parent/child pairs agree that such conversations ever took place. Who knows what distress the questions asked in this survey might have caused?

For more information about "The Internet and the Family 2000," call the Annenberg Public Policy Center at (215) 898-7041; or visit www.appcpenn.org.

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