The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has launched an online quiz-show-style game to test teens and other users on the possible dangers lurking on social-networking websites.
The game, called Buddy Builder, is available at OnGuardOnline, a consumer education website created by the FTC and other government agencies. The game takes players through a series of questions designed to warn them about creepy or dangerous people who frequent social-networking sites such as MySpace.com, which are popular with teenagers.
In the game, players move through rounds by correctly reacting to common requests found on social networking sites.
For example, the game asks, “Accept or Deny: It’s me, your Uncle John! Thanks for the link—Aunt Mary and I love your page…can you add us to your buddy list?”
When players accept, they are advised: “Yes, this is a fairly safe bet (assuming you actually had an Uncle John and Aunt Mary, and you invited them to visit your page!) If you’re at all unsure, why not call or e-mail him to check?”
Another question: “Accept or Deny: Wazzup? I think I know U—send me your pic (in swimsuit, pls!)?”
When players deny, they are advised: “Good thinking. Consider not posting your photo online—not only could it be altered in embarrassing ways, but do you really want strangers to know what you look like?”
However, if the player clicked accept to the swimsuit picture request, the game says, “Are you kidding? Sounds creepy—who needs a buddy like this?”
The quiz is one of several offered by OnGuardOnline, which includes tips, articles, videos and interactive activities. There is no copyright on the quizzes or other information on OnGuardOnline.gov; companies and other organizations can use the material in their own computer security programs. The content is available in Spanish through AlertaenLinea.gov.
The FTC introduced Buddy Builder during October, National Cyber Security Awareness Month. OnGuardOnline.gov has logged more than 2 million unique visits since its launch Sept. 27, 2005.
-Grant Gross, IDG News Service (Washington Bureau)
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