Is the Internet a threat to our individual security?

Bill
Bill Westcott
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The Canada Safety Council says children get hooked on computers at an early age. Last November the Council chose the theme, Cyber Safety Starts Young for its national Community Safety and Crime Prevention Campaign.

According to the publication, Young Canadians in A Wired World an astonishing 94 per cent of young people access the Internet from the seclusion of their home. Parents need to know that just because children have the ability to surf and handle a mouse or a touch-pad, that does not give them the ability of critical thinking or the capacity to scrutinize content and decipher fake from reality.

Scribblings of a Corner Boy - The Canada Safety Council says children get hooked on computers at an early age. Last November the Council chose the theme, Cyber Safety Starts Young for its national Community Safety and Crime Prevention Campaign.

According to the publication, Young Canadians in A Wired World an astonishing 94 per cent of young people access the Internet from the seclusion of their home. Parents need to know that just because children have the ability to surf and handle a mouse or a touch-pad, that does not give them the ability of critical thinking or the capacity to scrutinize content and decipher fake from reality.

There is a lot of buzz lately about how the Internet is becoming a threat to security, privacy and individual safety. From the comfort of an easy chair, one can download just about anything from music to porn.

The worldwide web is changing constantly. It is becoming much more user friendly, more informative and much more dangerous, especially for children. People of all ages are spending hours surfing, shopping, playing games and socializing online.

Web browsers like U-Tube, Twitter, Face Book and My Space are throwing the doors wide open to invasion of privacy. Technology is now such an important part of our lives that many users are forgetting the imminent dangers found at the tips of the fingers in front of a computer screen. It is reported that more and more people are using the web irresponsibly and forgetting that any information posted online can become a huge threat to individual security.

Recently in Florida, there were a number of home invasions as a result of careless owners Twittering and Face Booking advising friends where to meet them and when they would be leaving their homes to catch up with them. They failed to realize they were not alone on that web page.

What happened was, unbeknownst to the user, crooked online surfers looking in were able to read their chatty messages, figure out what time their homes would be empty, waited the opportune time and broke in. The results were tragic.

There was one frightening story told about a senior who had been left alone in her daughter's house. Her two teenagers were supposed to be staying home and nanny sitting. Left alone the old lady was surprised, robbed and bludgeoned to death by an online predator who committed a home invasion at the supposed empty house assumed from information found online.

Canada Safety Council advises that cyber safety starts young. They offer the following tips to assure safety while playing around with the computer in the home.

For parents of children aged 5-7 years:

* Always sit with them when they go online and limit access by book-marking some parent-approved sites.

* Advise them chat rooms, instant messaging and message boards are not age-appropriate.

* Start teaching privacy issues and warn them to never give out personal information online.

* Tell them to advise you about anything that they come across that is disturbing or which makes them feel uncomfortable. Remember to stay calm and let them know that they did the right thing in coming to see you.

For parents of children aged 8-10 years:

* Keep the family computer in an area that is easy to monitor. Talk to your kids about good values and possible hazards associated with computer use.

* Create family Internet rules with the input of your children. This should include a list of sites that are approved. Permission must be granted when any information is given out and perhaps the length of time spent on the home computer limited.

* Do your homework and find some reputable clubs or chat rooms. Help to contribute to a company experience that is free of undesirable cyber intrusions.

For parents of children aged 11 and up:

* Computer use will mushroom into multiple social networks and countless bookmarked sites. Parents must acquire a new vigilance and approach in dealing with cyber-hazards.

* Take time to familiarize yourself with your teen's computer interests. A frequent child/parent frank exchange will help keep the lines of communications open.

* It is a good idea to chat with your children's close online friends and make them aware you are going to monitor websites they are suggesting to their children.

* Teach children to never share their name, address, phone number, school name or any other personal information about themselves or their family while online.

For adults from teenagers to seniors:

* No matter the age, teens and seniors alike have to be constantly on their toes. What happens online stays online forever. Information is often searchable.

* As with children it is imperative to know with whom you are sharing information. Social media sites, chat rooms and other online forums can be anonymous, and some users may be pretending to be someone they are not.

* Be as suspicious of a stranger online as you are of strangers in public places. Be vigilant when, if ever, giving out personal information, particularly your Social Security (S.I.N.) number unless you are completely aware and familiar with the company and/or its website privacy policy.

* Make sure your anti-virus and spyware protection is up to date and in place. Pay attention to any prompts offered you by your anti-virus provider.

* Be aware that many public computers, such as those at a library or airport, and unsecured Wi-Fi connections can enable other users nearby to capture information you are sending or receiving. If you must use a public computer, make sure the site is secure.

* Never respond to e-mail popups asking for personal data or your password.

* If you use a password, use a strong one for all devices and accounts. Use a combination of numbers and letters, upper and lower case. Change your password frequently.

* Always look for signs that a Website is secure before sending financial or personal data online.

The Canadian Safety Council's final advice to parents of young children is - since computers are here to stay, parents should start young and instil good and safe habits with the Internet. Develop and nurture a relationship of trust and exchange and show obvious interest in your child's cyber life.

Here is a Canada Safety Council safety poem that perhaps should be cut out and posted over your home computer for everyone to see.

Elmer's Web Safety Poem

I have a special secret

Whenever I'm online

I don't tell others about the things

That really are just mine.

My e-mail and home address,

My phone number and name.

These are just for me to know

While chatting or playing games.

Instead, I use my nonsense name,

It's my online identity.

When people ask me who I am,

I introduce my "cyber-me"

And when I want to surf the Web,

To visit places that are cool,

I get some help from mom or dad,

Or teachers from my school.

Bill Westcott writes from a secured computer in Florida.Bill Westcott

Organizations: Canada Safety Council, Canadian Safety Council, Elmer's

Geographic location: Florida

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