published Friday, December 7th, 2012

Biz Bulletin: Children's emails to Santa Claus may not be so jolly

By Jim Winsett
  • photo
    BBB Chief Exective Jim Winsett
    Photo by Leigh Shelle Hunt

Q. My children want to email Santa their wish list for Christmas. I see there are many "Dear Santa" websites; are these safe and secure?

A. Thank you for this timely question. More than 75 domain names have been registered in the name of Santa Claus, offering children a wide range of opportunities to email St. Nick.

Sadly, some of the websites are not always so trustworthy and potentially can be a dangerous way to share personal information. The Better Business Bureau is advising parents to do their homework before letting their child write online to Santa this holiday season.

Writing to Santa has been a long-lasting tradition, and while it seems innocent and fun, it is very important for adults to carefully review the site to determine who is seeking the information, how it will be used and whether it will be shared with third parties.

According to the Children's Advertising Review Unit, all websites directed to children -- or websites designed with a special children's section -- should have a privacy policy that explains the site's information collection practices.

The privacy policy should include the name of the company and the company's complete contact information.

It also should state whether the company shares information with third parties, including advertisers, and whether the company publically discloses the information or retains the information for any future purpose.

CARU offers the following "Dear Santa" site review tips:

• Check to see what they want you to hand over. Websites directed to children should not ask a child to disclose more information than is reasonably necessary to participate in the activity -- a first name and email address, for instance.

• Limit the personal information children share with Santa and omit physical addresses. In many cases, there really should not be a need to share this information. Especially since Santa already knows where all the children live.

• Check websites for unwelcome content. Some sites are designed toward adults and may contain language or advertising adults may not want children to see.

• Check the links. Since hyperlinks can allow children to move seamlessly from one site to another, investigate the hyperlinks to assure children do not access inappropriate content.

Get answers to your questions each Friday from Jim Winsett, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau Inc., which serves Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia. Submit questions to his attention by writing to Business Editor Dave Flessner, Chattanooga Times Free Press, P.O. Box 1447, Chattanooga, TN, 37401-1447, or by emailing him at dflessner@

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