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The unique quality of the internet is that it can be used simultaneously for entertainment, business, communications, education, shopping and anything else we want to do without physical contact. One person can be in one location researching at a library across the globe while chatting with a neighbor or they can be at work monitoring children at home. You get the idea. The internet is a tool that can be used for good or bad purposes depending on the intent of the user.
The internet demands the lessons that we learn everyday over a lifetime about recognizing and handling potentially threatening situations to our well-being, our money, our identity, our children and our personal information be applied immediately. The internet does not make exceptions for lack of experience or the young. Dangers are just as real on the internet--not more and not less--as they are in the everyday world. Most persons don't avoid vehicles because they may have a tragic accident once in a lifetime. We shouldn't avoid the internet because we may be contacted by a swindler, predator or because it may be a confusing tool. The internet can be a very valuable tool when used properly and safely.
Patients can individually receive the expert experience of a doctor in a far away location. Students can take advantage of many libraries instead of only the local library. Shy persons can practice interacting with real people while having the ability to leave when situations are uncomfortable without embarrassment. Family members miles apart can communicate in real-time face-to-face. Businesses can have potentially more customers or clients in more locations than the potential customer or client base in their particular community.
When Online Shopping
Shopping online can be convenient. People have many different ways of shopping online. Some people get an idea of cost online before purchasing at their local retail store. Others like to browse in retail shops then purchase online because of the delivery convenience. No matter how you shop, be attentive to the age old axiom, “buyer beware.” Try to use only one credit card for online transactions and depositing funds as needed. Try to purchase online from the companies you have already done business with. Avoid responding to emails that promise better quality and/or prices. Avoid any transaction where you are asked to send or receive more money than the transaction requires. Use your everyday know-how to avoid swindlers and becoming a victim of fraud. The same scams and fraud that have been around for centuries now have a lucrative tool to reach more potential victims in much less time. People online are the same strangers you can meet in the grocery store, bar, local business or back alley. Try not to fall prey to unscrupulous individuals.
Protecting Your Children
Sometimes parents have a difficult time supervising internet activities of their children because they are unfamiliar with the tool. Children typically adapt to new things better than their parents because they don’t know how things were done in the past. The "new" way of learning something for parents is the "first" way of learning something for children. Parents are required to make a correlation between activities everyday and on the internet. For example, if your child is not allowed to stay home alone, they should not be in chatrooms without you physically watching the computer screen.
Any child’s profile in a social networking community needs to be reviewed by the parent. The parent also needs to visit the personal pages of all "friends" to be sure they approve of the contact and to be sure no information is posted about their child or neighborhood friends that can identify their school, address or phone numbers. Social networking communities have very good uses for children. For a shy child, they can enhance social interactions. They also can foster a group that is interested in one topic such as music or science. On the other hand, social networking communities can provide a platform for child predators, hate groups and social bullying. So, parents must consistently monitor their child’s online activities to be sure an unsavory person is not targeting their children.
Maintain Your Machine
We use tools all the time. When we do, we make sure we know how to use them properly and they are in working order. The same is true with the internet. Computer users need to maintain their computer in good working condition. This means we keep the keyboard, laptop, CPU and all peripherals clean, inside and out. We try to avoid computer viruses and infections by using anti-virus software. We try to avoid the electronic snoop by using anti-spyware and encryption with email, files and wireless connections. We should get rid of junk in the computer and hard drive as often as we do in our homes and vehicles.
As long as individuals maintain their responsibility for individual safety, parents protect children in the everyday world and online, and individuals are aware of persons trying to benefit through half-lies and false truths, the internet can be as safe or more safe than your local neighborhood.