Friday, March 07, 2008

RM colum February 15th - Internet safety is still an issue

RM column - February 15th - Internet safety is still an issue

Not that long ago parents’ biggest problem concerning the internet was probably concerning what their child was looking at, now there are many more issues involved and checking out the more lets say colourful side of the internet probably ranks along the bottom of the list.

Research now shows that one of the most wonderful evolutions of the internet, social networking sites pose one of the biggest problems for young people. Social networking sites include sites like Bebo, MySpace and Facebook and I have written a lot about them before.

Don’t get me wrong I love the social networking phenomenon and have gotten so much out of it but I have always been astonished and disturbed to see how much information our young people are putting on the internet for all to see and save.

We can see photos of the young people, we can sometimes see phone numbers, we know where they go and who their friends are. That is something I am not at all comfortable with.
This is leaving them open to all sorts of things like identity theft, abuse and bullying not to mention the potential of harming choices they will make in the future.

While it would appear there is a certain amount of ‘it won’t happen to me’ it does appears that some of the safety messages are getting through to young people but we do need to do more and remain vigilant about our children’s internet activity.

One of the things about the internet which many people overlook and it is a biggy is that all the information is saved for future reference and can be used against you.

Recently a college admissions staff member admitted to going into potential students Bebo and MySpace pages and checking them out. So if the student has things about themselves that are less than favourable they can probably rule out that college.

And what constitutes less than favourable? Well probably talking about getting drunk all the time with the pictures to prove it.

This can also follow through to work so for that reason alone it is seriously important to watch what you say and publish about yourself.

Webwise.ie (which provides advice on safely using the internet) has found that 71 per cent of young people have public profiles on their sites. So anyone anywhere can check them out.
Being added as a friend also poses problems where people accept friendships online from people they have never met. And bear in mind how easy it is to go online and lie about who you are.

So even if your profile is not public and only available to friends, if you add a stranger as a friend your previous safety action is breached. Webwise has also found that 27 per cent of Irish nine to 16 year olds have met someone new on the internet who has asked for information such as their photo, phone number, address or the school they go to.

In some cases this is innocent and just teenagers meeting online but it is clear there are those who want this information for sinister purposes.

Scarily 12 per cent of Irish young people admit to posting their phone number, 8 per cent display their address, 49 per cent their date of birth and 79 per cent their full name. I have to admit to making mistakes myself, it is an area where we are all still learning.

We need to drive home the message of being safe on the internet to our young people. This isn’t about not being cool and not understanding the interwebs or indeed enjoying the benefits the internet has to offer. We teach our children all sorts of safety rules from they are small and the internet is no different.

4 comments:

Neil Ward said...

I must admit to being one of those people on whom it's relatively easy to garner a huge amount of information about by googling me.

Which kinda shows how careless I've been over the years. Sadly, you can't really delete things off this interweb thingy....

Anonymous said...

To get my internet safety materials for my kids I use i-SAFE. www.isafe.org

Red Mum said...

@Neil the identity theft is a scary one and someone once pointed out to me about the memes that do the rounds where some of the questions are also security questions on many email providers. It didn't affect me as I hadn't used any of them but still it shows how easy it is to slip up.

@anonymous I'll check that out thanks.

Iced Coffee said...

I have always been super-conscious about what I put on the web, knowing that it will always be there.

Besides the odd vague detail on the blog, I never give personal details, and no compromising photographs (there are one or two recent ones of me drunk though...). I hated social networking sites, until I realised I had a real reason to network (photograph). Now I do like them.

I always tell me brother, 16, never give out details, and for that reason I'm glad he doesn't use the internet much.