Almost everyone has access to the Internet nowadays – but not everyone actually stops to think how vulnerable users actually are. Considering the fact that the Internet is so packed with countless users, not many people think that they are actually worth hacking – nor do they believe that they are worth spying on. However, an average user is under much more close surveillance than he or she may believe.
Over the years, the Internet has turned from a source of information to a place where people are bullied or exposed to fraudulent acts. The only way of protecting yourself is to know exactly what you are getting yourself into – and knowing the Internet better than it knows you.
What the Internet Knows About You
It is commonly said that the Internet knows you better than you know yourself. When you browse the World Wide Web, you unwittingly leave a lot of data behind – just like when you step over soft ground and leave footprints.
How many clues may one get through those “footprints” and how deep can they get into your privacy? The thought of it is rather disturbing. This is why one should always be aware of the traces left behind starting the moment you enter a URL in the address bar.
The Internet works by using IP addresses – with IP standing for Internet Protocol, which is a data exchange standard. The moment you enter a website, your IP is remembered – and it will act as a connection between you and a particular domain.
This information is received by means of history and cookies. As you may have noticed, every browser records your previously accessed websites (unless you explicitly prevent it from doing it) – and these websites are used in order to show you content information. You can prevent the links from being stored by checking “Clear history when the browser closes,” but the data will still remain visible when you are browsing.
The same applies to cookies. This technology collects information in order to offer you the content that you need. It’s useful up to a certain point – but eventually, the Internet will know more about you than you know yourself.
So, does “private” actually mean private? Not really. We may think that no one really cares about our browsing – but in truth, everything is recorded.
Plus, there have been concerns about the fact that the government uses the internet to spy on us. Intelligent devices, smartphones, smart home devices – all of these are used so that we can be identified and kept under surveillance.
The Problem of Online Harassment
When it comes to Internet safety, online harassment is also a grave issue. More and more people are experiencing cyberstalking and cyberbullying, where the stalker tries to communicate with a victim against their will. In the worst-case scenarios, the stalker directs threats to the victim’s loved ones or the victim. The issue is not to be ignored – so, if you are cyberbullied or believe that someone is suffering from a cyberbully’s actions, it’s best to contact the police.
According to surveys, four out of ten people in America have been harassed online or have been exposed to abusive content/language/etc. Similarly, 18% have been a target of more severe behavior such as sexual harassment or physical threats. This harassment is generally based on physical aspects, gender, political views, and race.
Furthermore, those who have not been subjected to online harassment have at least witnessed it. Around 86% of the people from the surveyed group claim that they have witnessed abusive online behavior at least once – some of them even in fairly extreme forms.
Children and Internet Safety
Nearly every American child nowadays has full access to the Internet – mainly because it provides them with a fair amount of information and entertainment. The problem, however, is that the Internet also exposes a child to a variety of dangers.
For instance, a child may come into contact with racist, demeaning, sexist, even pornographic and obscene materials. However, the most troubling is the fact that these kids may also come across predators who use the Internet to lure out their victims into the real world. This is fairly common among children and teens that use chatrooms.
Social media and gaming websites are also the perfect places for predators to contact children. Most of these predators will use fake accounts, fake profile pictures, and false common interests to lure out their victim.
This is why children should always keep themselves safe by remembering the following tips:
- Do not share your personal information online, such as your full name or address. A cyberstalker may use this information to harm you.
- Only talk with the people you know. If someone that you do not know tries to contact you, let your parents know.
- Do not send pictures to people that you do not know – with or without your clothes on.
- Be careful before spending money online, whether at a gaming website or a clothes shop. Some websites were only made to scam people out of their money.
- If you are worried about anything, always talk to an adult.
In the event that you – the child – are subjected to cyberbullying, the first thing you should know is that you should not blame yourself. Retaliating is not an answer, and if you feel like it is getting out of hand, then you can reach out for help. The advantage of the Internet is that you can save the evidence and show it to the police.
Parents and Internet Safety
The Internet is vast and packed with many strange things – things that you, as a parent, may be uncomfortable with your child seeing. While you may be able to know who your child is talking to when they are playing on your street, you may not be able to have this luxury once they go online. As a result, you may want to learn how to prevent any potential threats.
- Avoid adware and malware: Considering that ads and so-called “free apps” are packed with content that you may not want your child to see, you should explain to your child the full extent of these apps.
- Protect the child against online predators: Teach them that just like they’re not supposed to talk to strangers in real life, they should not talk to strangers online either.
- Check the social networks: Many kids nowadays use social networks as a way to communicate and “fit in” with their friends – which is why, as a parent, you should determine whether any particular website is suitable for your child or not.
As a parent, you can’t do much to restrict their movement online – at least not when it comes to Internet protocol. The only thing that you can do is teach your children how to behave on the Internet and protect themselves against predators.
Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act
To ensure that children remain safe on the Internet, the COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) has been adopted. Every information-collecting website that gathers information from children under 13 must abide by its laws.
The COPPA requires that every website should obtain parental consent for children under 13 – and should also permit the parents to review all the information submitted by the child. Children under 18 may not need such strict control – but some ethical issues are still in play, and parental consent may still be required.
Through this act, parents can also choose to delete certain personal information and records that they may deem dangerous to share. The law allows parents to address any ethical issues and protect their children’s privacy – from computer to mobile spying, and many more.
Every parent should always check whether a website is COPPA-compliant or not. Failure to mention this or ask for consent may mean that the website is unreliable.