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Stephen Logan

What Should We Learn on Safer Internet Day?

6th Feb 2012 News, Industry News 3 minutes to read

Safer Internet DayIf you weren’t already aware, tomorrow (February 7th) is Safer Internet Day.

It has been created to help make people more aware of the dangers of using the Internet and sharing personal details online. Probably a lesson that many could take something from. However, as with many initiatives, the short-term exposure of this event may not necessarily lead to long-term benefits.

It’s no secret that the Internet offers a world of opportunities, enabling people from all backgrounds to communicate and access information in ways that previous generations could only have dreamt of. However this Utopian ideal of sharing everything and anything wherever you are has turned into a nightmare for many.

The perils of over-sharing online are certainly nothing new. Perhaps they are more advanced now, with younger generations taking to the Internet and more forums for them to share details; but nevertheless, it’s a problem that has blighted the wider world for well over a decade now. For as long as the Internet has existed, there have been those who have looked to exploit it for their own needs .

Multiple Online Risks

From organised crime to disruptive hackers, the Internet has provided a platform for wrongdoers to thrive. Unfortunately, many of us have been far too accommodating when it comes to providing them with the data that they desire. The finger has been pointed at search engines and social networking sites in the past to clean up their privacy policies and do more to protect users, but ultimately a great deal rests on the shoulders of the individuals using these services.

Education is the obvious solution and one that Safer Internet Day is keen to promote. However, despite the endless warnings, cybercrime is still as prevalent as it ever has been, in fact, possibly even more so. Concrete statistics relating to the levels of crime are difficult to come by, which is as a result of the public not being aware or not reporting cases as well as some exaggerated claims.

Criminality exists wherever there are opportunities to profit. The easier the opportunity, the greater the likelihood for exploitation. Social networks offer perhaps the most obvious example of where users can be exploited, purely because of the freedom with which information is shared. You can tell the world where you live and work on Facebook and then check-in when you’re away through Foursquare. It’s effectively a free-for-all for identity thieves and burglars.

Of course you can also engage in anonymous discussions with other users and confide in people that you may never meet. Younger users are particularly vulnerable when it comes to online attacks.

Cyberbullying and Targeting Young Internet Users

Cyberbullying is a growing problem, with many teenagers suffering abuse in person and online. In fact, a leading charity has estimated that as many as 1 in 13 people between the ages of 11 and 16 suffer “persistent cyberbullying” as part of an investigation byPanorama – on BBC tonight. This has resulted in a number of infamous headlines, particularly relating to tragic suicides and ugly trolling of remembrance pages.

“1 in 13 people between the ages of 11 and 16 suffer “persistent cyberbullying”. This needs to stop.” – Tweet This

Parents, teachers and the sites hosting discussions all have a part to play in helping youngsters to understand why it’s important not to share personal information and to deal with bullies or other predators. However, it’s equally important that all generations fully understand the need for taking necessary precautions. From anti-virus software and parental locks through to privacy settings and personal censorship, we all have the ability to protect ourselves, but many still choose not to exercise this.

The Internet, just like the real-world, can never be completely safe. Initiatives like the Internet Safer Day will help encourage awareness, but ultimately much will depend on people’s attitudes towards sharing data and increasing their own knowledge of the dangers present. Only share what you’re comfortable with others accessing. Once it’s out there, you lose control over it. Also don’t give away information without due consideration. If you don’t know who you’re talking to, then be careful.

It’s an ongoing fight between users and criminal elements of society, but so far the latter appears to be winning. Some things that you might consider doing tomorrow (or any time) include the following:

  • Review privacy settings on email and social profiles
  • Ensure anti-virus is up-to-date
  • Discuss bullying and the information shared by children
  • Remove anything that you’re not comfortable sharing
  • Close any social profiles you’re not using
  • Don’t ignore security concerns

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