It seems that older people and younger people who regularly use the Internet can learn a lot from each other, particularly when it comes to personal security. While the 'net is a great tool for getting news, doing research, shopping and keeping in touch with old and new friends, it also opens the door to a host of security issues that can affect almost anyone online. Looking at generational strengths and weaknesses, international security experts are hoping to leverage the technical savvy of the younger generations online with the real-world experience of older users of the Web.
A recent study by American Internet security educators, i-SAFE, found that 88 percent of parents felt they had established adequate rules for their children's Internet activity. However, more than a third of school-aged children said that their parents had not established rules for their Internet activity. One in four students say they rarely, if ever, discussed Internet safety with their parents, and 35 percent admitted to risky online behavior. Risky behavior includes posting personally identifiable information (e.g., age, address, phone numbers), participating in non-age-appropriate discussion groups and sending money to or agreeing to meet strangers in person.
Through sites like Facebook, generations are connecting online more than ever, and there are new ways surfacing every day for people to connect. But, when we venture into online activities that we don't know or don't fully understand, we run the highest risk of finding trouble. This is where the generations can connect to help keep each other safe by viewing online use not as an individual activity, but rather as a family affair. Each person, from child to grandparent, has unique experiences and online competences, and together, their knowledge is power.
Talk to your children and grandchildren openly and honestly about online safety. Give them advice, but also ask for their help and opinions. If you see a younger relative behaving in an unsafe way online, bring it up. He may not like your interference, but he will hear and think about what you have to say. Leave the door open for communication and stay engaged. According to Surveilstar, a maker of online security software, signs of unsafe online behavior by children include:
- Your child spends a large amount of his free time online.
- Your child receives phone calls from people you do not know or is making calls, sometimes long distance calls, to numbers you do not recognize.
- Your child receives mail, gifts or packages from someone you do not know, or even an increased amount of junk mail addressed to him.
- Your child turns the computer monitor off or quickly changes the screen on the monitor when you come into the room, or has several applications and switches between them.
- Your child becomes withdrawn from the family, and even may become withdrawn from friends to spend time on-line.
- Your child is using an online account belonging to someone else.
Whether it is your child or grandchild, don't be afraid to ask the questions that could uncover a serious problem. You'll be safeguarding their security and you may just learn something about your own online behavior in the process.
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