FTC Online Mall Teaches Tweens About Online Privacy, Scammers

This month, the Federal Trade Commission unveiled You Are Here, a virtual mall where kids can learn to avoid online scams, spot misleading ads, and learn good habits to be smart consumers.

From the FTC’s release:

At the FTC’s online mall, visitors play games, watch short animated films, and interact with customers and store owners. They can design and print advertisements for a shoe store, investigate suspicious claims in ads and sales pitches, learn to identify the catches behind bogus modeling schemes and vacation offers, and guess the retail prices of various candies based on their supply, demand, and production costs.

At the Security Plaza, visitors can build a social networking page and see the unintended consequences of posting personal information. They also get tips on how to keep their computers safe while they’re online. In the arcade, visitors can play Info Defender 3 and protect Earthlings from Cyclorian invaders who would steal their identities. The game teaches the importance of protecting personal information, including Social Security numbers.

Some areas of the site are a little too goofy and light on detail, like the fake Nigerian scammer arcade game (which was fun but not very educational). Other parts were very informative; the food court has a conversation about the advantages and disadvantages of an ice cream chain merger (pros: bigger market share means stronger purchasing power with the supplier which are passed on as lower prices; cons: with no one around to compete with the chain, why should they bother lowering prices?), and the FTC’s role in policing really big mergers (like this one).

If you have pre-teen children and want them to learn some good habits and get informed about targeted marketing, data theft, and basic economics, this is a useful site.

You Are Here [FTC]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Tim says:

    They had to tread lightly on the Nigerian 419. We all saw what the Nigerian embassy did to Sony …

  2. KyleOrton says:

    But how will the tweens know to protect themselves from snarky Consumerist readers trolling the site and telling them to make their own candy at home?

  3. diasdiem says:

    Until they’re old enough to hear about how they can increase their penis size naturally, the FTC will not be able to fully prepare them.

  4. admiral_stabbin says:

    This education program is upside down. Kids these days will organically learn those common sense tips. It’s the adults that are starting to use their computers that really need to be educated. They stand to lose the most, and life has prepared them the least. I have to imagine that most of the people being hacked on Facebook are 30+, and most of the hackers are pre-teens.

    • AnthonyC says:

      Yeah, most (but not all) of the 15-30 year olds or so are going to be fine. Though I have met a surprising number of completely computer-illiterate people (by the standards of my generation) at college.

      The 5-15 year olds, not gonna do so well without some guidance.

    • XTC46 says:

      Stupid is spread equally accross all ages. Most 30+ people dont have 600 friends on facebook, so they are low risk targets. And the “hackers” (at least the ones I know) are 17-35ish.

      Remeber, “hacking” face book accounts is almost always about money, young kids have a much harder time getting that money offline once its there and are almost never smart enough to keep it a secret.

    • cadieg says:

      i’m actually pretty mortified by the number of people my own age (20s-early 30s) who are completely computer illiterate. i’m talking about… can barely figure out how to run an internet search.
      i don’t think that just because this age group sort of grew up with computers that all the people in that age group can be classified as tech savvy to any degree. i know of way too many peers that could benefit by visiting the FTC site…

  5. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    I love it. Kudos, FCC, for finding a creative approach to protecting citizens from bad businesses in a way that appeals to today’s youth and thus protects future generations.

  6. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    I completely disagree with this line of logic. Here’s why:

    The young, who have grown up with the internet, trust the internet. They believe it is safe, and that is where they will fall. They think they can put their personal information anywhere and it will be stored safely, and that is not always the case. The old do not trust the internet; they are wary, and that will protect them.
    Fact of the matter is, anyone can be tricked by fake websites made to look like your bank, fine print in your Terms & Conditions, and too-good-to-be-true deals. Scammers are survivors, and will find new and devilish ways of tricking the consumer. The way to beat them isn’t to reveal the tricks they use NOW, but to teach you how to detect current AND new forms yet created. Sort of the teach the man to fish analogy.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Sorry, this is in reply to admiral_stabbin who said kids will grow up knowing how to avoid computer-based scams because they grew up with technology.

      • Coles_Law says:

        Agreed. Way too many of my friends have phone numbers and home addresses on Facebook and have no qualms about tossing them about like confetti.

    • admiral_stabbin says:

      You make an interesting point that I had not considered about trusting the Internet. You’ve broadened my thinking significantly…I think they need to serve both audiences…which they could do with that app. Although, I think children may be more forgiving of the lack of noses. It kinda creeps my out…

      Now, if only adults over 30 would stop thinking they know it all and go learn to fish too… :-)

  7. H3ion says:

    I would question the age level this is aimed at. I would think that it has the sophistication level of about a 10-year-old which may be the target audience. It seemed a bit oversimplified. Again, it depends on the target audience. At least this seems like a useful expenditure of tax dollars.

    Interesting study in the AARP monthly publication. The number of people over 65 who used the Internet was substantially lower than the ten-year age group just below. I’m sure the numbers would have increased exponentially if the study had gone down into the 20-year old range. One category that was very low for the over-65’s was whether the responders had ever purchased anything on the Internet.

    • jesusofcool says:

      i’d like to meet the tween that willingly plays FTC games. I’m just skeptical that this will go over well.

  8. Colonel Jack O'neill says:

    What the hell is a Tween, and who calls people a tween?

    • diasdiem says:

      11-12 year old’s. Not little kids, but not yet teens. Between. Get it?

      • Colonel Jack O'neill says:

        So, ain’t that the same as a preteen?

        Back in my day we were called preteens.(I sound like a grumpy 90 year old man, but I’m only 29.)

        • admiral_stabbin says:

          Pre-teen was too many syllables, thus it has been gangstarized as “tween”.

          Yeah, I think it’s lame-o too. But, it’s the way of the world these days. Let’s go play shuffleboard, although you have a slight age edge on me (I’m one foot in the grave @ 30).

        • diasdiem says:

          Yeah it’s the same. It’s just some BS word some journalist somewhere coined to sound cute. Probably the same jerk who brought us “Staycation” and “Bromance.”

          Besides, “tween” sounds clean and innocent. “Preteen” is a little tarnished from its frequent appearance in news stories about pedophiles.

    • mommiest says:

      It’s a kid who is 10 to 12 years old. Double digits but pre-teen. A lot of parents use the term, as in, “Is it a good book for tweens?”

  9. psm321 says:

    I am going to take this opportunity to make the tangentially related request that the Consumerist folks talk to the CU head honchos and get Zillions back. Please?

  10. Alex Chasick says:

    Tween may refer to: Preadolescence, the stage between middle childhood and adolescence in human development, generally in the age range of 10 to 14 years of age.

    Because the FTC’s release indicates it’s aimed at 5th-8th graders, this term is preferable to pre-teen, which only refers to 10-12-year-olds. It is a stupid, but accurate, term.

  11. MooseOfReason says:

    I went there a couple years ago. Fun stuff.

  12. unpolloloco says:

    I feel like tweens have more issues with being too public online and the older generations have more issues with getting scammed online. That said, this is a massive waste of taxpayer money because very few tweens would be caught dead on that site unless they were forced to go there.