Indeed, the Internet has significantly changed the way we interact with the world. The children of this century have become intertwined to intense and knowledgeable world affairs than evinced in the past generations. Alongside the capacity to effortlessly access insightful information on the Internet, it also poises malicious risks. Thus, Internet safety is starting to become an integral part of people’s cyber experience.
‘Cyberattack’ is a newly coined phrase that defines a detrimental occurrence for users of the Internet. With over 95% of Generation Y involved in the cybernetic world, it is easy to assume that they would also be the most vulnerable. The main concerns include: cyber-bullying, exposure to inappropriate materials, online predators and privacy.
As much as one would like to say ‘words will never hurt me’, psychologists states otherwise and have proved that the written words bodes power. Online users are blessed with the power of anonymity from being online and this is the main source of reckless actions, in particular, cyber-bullying. Cyber-bullying is defined as the deliberate psychological and/or emotional harassment of an individual through electronic means, with the intention to intentionally harm.
Through the increasing utility of SMS and social networks, Internet safety measures must be practiced to simmer down such an evolved form of derogatory behavior. 17% of children between 13-17, who have treaded on the negative space of the Internet, have been pushed towards committing self-harm and possibly suicide. Steps for early intervention include the provision of education through learning warning signs. Enabling vast visibility and accessibility for suitable counseling services or other source of support, both online and offline, will also be beneficial.
Source: Verbal Abuse PSA by Juvenile Protective Association
It is imperative for individuals to understand that they are not alone in this – someone is there for them and someone will care. Here are some useful online services that offer assistance:
“Cyber-bullying is poised to turn into the biggest online concern, already affecting up to 35% of all children.”
– Dr Martyn Wild
Resources on Cyber-bullying
Exposure to Inappropriate Materials
It is estimated that 6 of 10 children between 13-17 with access to the Internet, will be exposed to inappropriate materials including viruses, scams and pornographic sites (source). This number had increased by 6 times over the past decade. The rapid influx of hand-held technology can be blamed for the impressive reach. A diverse range of 55% of young adults, between the age of 18 and 21, has openly admitted to purposely using the Internet to search for inappropriate content (source).
Conducting an open discussion with the children of the family about the values and etiquette of online usage can remind them of how to safely search for online information without crossing paths with unwelcoming sites. Downloading anti-virus software or changing the settings by adding a filter to block out the ‘uncertified’ websites may also assist in one’s Internet safety habits. The programs may be: Norton by Symantec, AVG, Avira.
“The Internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow.”
– Bill Gates
Contrary to popular beliefs, online predators don’t only target females, but both the male and female population equally fall victim. Again, anonymity is used to their advantage since they can masquerade whoever or whatever they desire. The emergence of Instant Messaging has accelerated the accessibility of information stored on the clouds about a certain individual. The ease of identity theft is a key indicator of potential risks among innocent Internet users. To prevent one from falling a victim, one must learn that Internet safety that entails the understanding who to trust online – they may not be who they say they are.
The top 3 ways to protect oneself from online fraud are:
- Checking the IP web address before providing PIN numbers through the Internet
- Never provide an anonymous user with personal information (including photos, birthday, full name)
- Ask questions when unsure and regardless of circumstance, never meet in a private space with a stranger met online
“While the Internet holds many potential opportunities for children, there is also a tremendous danger of online predators.”
– Bob Goodlatte
The area of privacy has recently become an unclear and unexhausted boundary, when taking in account the elements of ethics and morals. Although the Government assures the public about using its best practices to secure personal information online – they have transgressed to also alert that the information submitted may pass through a third party in transit.
Privacy may be breached without knowledge of it. Perhaps one will never know, however the reality is that the burden will always linger upon one’s shoulders. The contemporary use of social media, as a platform for expressing ‘what people want to tell others about themselves’, serves to fabricate more information online.
The idea of digital assets may be a newly conceived topic, however it is a concept that is here to stay. Having a digital estate plan will be extremely beneficial, as it will assist the distribution of personal information after death.
“I’ve never looked through a keyhole without finding someone looking back.”
– Judy Garland
Regardless of one’s social status, society has eased itself into the habit of relaying personal information. Its ramifications are doubtful and perhaps will always stay this way. Until the day that Internet safety is completely embraced, the Internet won’t stop growing, which makes the concurrent action of undertaking Internet safety more of an important skill to acquire. Inevitably with growth, comes risks and fear.