Today the Internet has become part of our lives. It has also created a few new words – when we want to know about something, we say “google it”……20 years ago it meant nothing. For the younger kids it is part of life and cannot even imagine life without it.
Unfortunately the Internet has also a dark side. Nobody “owns” it which means that anybody can put just about anything and although sites like Youtube or Facebook will remove inappropriate or offensive content, it can be found elsewhere.
This availability causes problems when children surf the web. What makes this particularly difficult to control is that often very innocuous looking links take the user to very non-innocous places….
If your children use your computer, set up user accounts for each of them (and one for you). You can put individual programs on each account – for example children would need a web browser but little else, and web browsers usually have security settings plus Windows itself has security settings – Control panel>Internet Options – I am talking about Windows but I imagine other operating systems have similar settings. Then there is software like Net Nanny (http://www.netnanny.com/) that controls and filters whatever you do and much more.
Another area to watch out is a favorite:Facebook. Today almost everybody uses it, especially young people. Unfortunately it’s popularity also makes it an ideal place for dodgy activity. People tend to give too much details about themselves – apart from name they give adress, school, interests, hobbies and much more. Gathering all this data, one can make a pretty good profile of the person and act accordingly. It could be a harmless secret admirer but could also be a dangerous predator.
Then there are other nasties on Facebook – the latest seem to be autostart videos…..it is a niusance if you are using wifi, but can pile up quite a bit of charges if you are on a mobile phone using G3, G4 or whatever protocol you are using. Thankfully there is an easy fix for this : just disable autostart videos in your profile settings……only problem is that you find out this when you receive an exorbitant phone bill. Another favorite is called “clickjacking” – it usually is a video that asks the user to share or some offer that seems to good to be true (and is usually endorsed by a celebrity). The moment you click on it, it downloads a virus or some malware and this eventually does something nasty to your computer.
Finally I mention e-mail…..if you are often enough on the computer, eventually you will begin to receive junk mail. This falls into the categories of advertisement, scams, viruses and/or malware and phishing. Advertisements are just that : advertisements, scams often say you have inherited a large amount of money or somebody needs your help to take a large amount of money out of a country. This scam has been going on for many years, but consider that the people who send them send millions (yes, millions) of these emails EVERY DAY, so even if they get only a couple of daily hits, it is a success. Viruses and/or malware are usually included in an attachment. Finally a word about phishing – these usually look exactly like the login page of a service (like Paypal or a bank) or a website (like Facebook). At times these are so well made that it is difficult to spot as a fake but the best giveaway is the website name in the adress bar of your browser – I has to begin with “https” not just “http” and it has to have a padlock near the website name in the adress bar. This means that the website is secure and your login and password are encrypted.
Overall it is not that hard to make use of Internet safe but it requires a bit of planning and preparation. I also strongly advise an Antivirus – many are available free but the paid versions are better.