Shawn Douglas

Friday - Feb 10, 2012

Safer Internet DayThis past Tuesday saw people all over the globe observing Safer Internet Day (SID), with the aim of “promot[ing] safer and more responsible use of online technology and mobile phones, especially amongst children and young people across the world.” Originally spawned as a European event in 2004, support for the cause has expanded significantly since.

As Learn the Net was founded on the principal of providing relevant information to help people learn about how to safely and efficiently use the wide array of Internet resources available to them, it was particularly encouraging to see so many facts and tips being shared in the name of educating and raising awareness on Safer Internet Day. In fact, many statistics were released worldwide to coincide specifically with SID this past Tuesday.

Consider the following examples:

• 37 percent of U.S. children and 44 percent of British children aged eight to 12 access Facebook regularly despite its 13-or-older age regulation.

• 28 percent of U.K. children aged 11-16 have been bullied over the Internet.

• The Republic of Malta’s social welfare group Aġenzija Appoġġ has received 194 reports of Internet abuse since February 2011.

• 35 percent of reports to Greece’s online watchdog SafeLine involve illegal content or abuse on Facebook.

• 24 percent of West Australian high school students share the passwords to their social networking accounts with other people.

And this was only the tip of the iceberg! Governments, not-for-profits, and organizations of all types set out this week to raise awareness. Even media broadcasters like the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) are in the act, with the BBC in particular making a week-long event of it with its Share Take Care program.

“Throughout the week, programs across the BBC will be prompting conversations about the unintended consequences of over-sharing online,” said the BBC, “and raising awareness about the little things you can do to manage your online reputation and help others manage theirs.”

This goal ties in well with this year’s theme “connecting generations and educating each other.” The Internet has become an amazing tool that holds relevance to the young and old. Through education and helping each other, we ensure the longevity of that tool.

That said, here are five tips of my own to help put you on your way to a safer Internet experience:

1. Cyberbullying — the act of harassing and tormenting another person online — is becoming more prominent, and many people don’t know how to deal with it. While there are numerous takes on how to handle a cyberbully, the general consensus is to not respond to the attacks, save all correspondence, and let someone (parent, teacher, authority figure) know it’s happening. Check out more tips on OvercomeBullying.org.

2. Always read the opt-out policy of a website. This usually comes in the form of a check box or Yes/No prompt asking you if you wish to have your information shared with third parties or if you wish to receive e-mails or newsletters. It’s easy to just click the “Ok” or “Yes” button without reading when presented with such information, but you shouldn’t. Take the extra time to understand what you’re agreeing to.

3. When using a public Internet-connected device (in other words, a computer or device you don’t uniquely use), always remember to log out. Also, be careful with password saving features! Don’t assume that password saving is disabled in the browser you’re using.

4. Don’t share your passwords with anyone, and encourage others to do the same. I recognize there may be emergencies where you may feel it appropriate to share your password, but don’t do it for all but the most urgent of circumstances. Also, remember the representative of any legitimate company will not ask you for your password. If someone claims to be with a company and asks for your password, don’t give it to them.

5. Read through Learn the Net’s “Stay Safe” articles to learn more about computer viruses, secure transactions, and online privacy.