A couple of weeks ago, I came across an article on a 5th grade teacher who was trying to explain to her students the need for care when posting to the Internet. To demonstrate, she uploaded a picture of herself holding a sign, asking viewers to “like” the photo. Within days, the story went viral, the photo hit 600,000 likes, and various Photoshopped variants of the picture flooded the ‘Netwaves. Some of the variants were harmless, and some helped the teacher make her point. Some, however, were offensive and crude, and demonstrated the dangers of experiments such as this one.
Anyone remember the television commercial showing a naïve young woman, who believes the über-geek approaching her is a French model because ‘they can’t put anything on the Internet that isn’t true’? We laugh indulgently and pat her on the head, because we understand how silly that statement is. The Internet is rife with opinions, inaccuracies, and flat-out lies. The trick here is how to put yourself out there as safely as possible. Here are 5 tips for Internet safety:
1. Understand that not everyone is your friend. Don’t feel obliged to friend anyone who asks. Do you know the person? Do you trust this person? Do you want him or her to see every word you write?
2. Remember the New York Times rule. “If you wouldn’t be comfortable with what you write being on the front page of the New York Times in 3” high letters, don’t put it on Facebook. Similarly (and probably more importantly), if you wouldn’t say it to your mother, don’t Tweet it.
3. “Checking in” using Foursquare or Facebook tells people where you are – which also tells them when your house is empty. I call checking in “Burglar’s Aid” or “Stalker’s Shortcut.” Timing is everything. Post your vacation pics after you return home.
4. For parents, trying to keep a child safe on the Internet is especially terrifying, as we’ve all heard the stories of predators finding children through social networking. Internet access is a privilege, not a right. Take access away if your kid strays from your guidelines. That includes smart phones.
5. Monitoring your children’s activities online is neither distrust nor an invasion of privacy. It is protection. Invest in a monitoring program. I used Spector Pro.
6. Never give your kids Admin privileges. That’s akin to handing the keys to your Porsche to a minor.
As part of Bring Your Child to Work Day, I created a Facebook page for 15-year old Ashleigh Kennedy. Because she was matriculating into a new school, she wanted to get to know some of her classmates before classes started, so she asked to friend some of them. And them some more. In total, Ashleigh ended up with 300+ friends, some from her school, some from as far away as Germany. A ‘friend’ from Las Vegas pushed her to sext him, and then meet him. If that doesn’t strike fear into every parent of a 15-year old girl, I don’t know what will! Out of all the friend requests she sent out, only two people bothered to ask, “Uh…do I know you?” The reason this is significant? Ashleigh Kennedy does not exist. Here is the equivalent of her Facebook photo:
And here is the actual Ashleigh Kennedy:
Yes, they can put things on the Internet that aren’t true. Be careful, be cautious, and yes, be suspicious. The French model might in reality be an overweight geek.