The importance of Internet safety

Using computers at home and in school has become extremely routine. The National Runaway Switchboard cites online predators, online bullying and identity theft as the most common dangers faced by youth online.

While there are potential dangers that may face a young person online, the Internet can also be a valuable resource. It is an expanding source of information and social connections for many teenagers. When used in a safe way, it can be a great place to learn, to express yourself and to keep in touch with friends.

In what ways are you involved with the Internet? Is it e-mailing, instant-messaging, school-related research, reading/watching the news, social networking (MySpace, Facebook, Xanga), blogging or buying stuff?

It’s obvious that more and more people are relying on the Internet. Unfortunately, not everyone on the Internet has the best of intentions. Lately, it is common to hear about stories of scams, frauds, victimizing and identity thefts happening online. One of the best ways to avoid becoming victimized is to become educated about how to safely surf the Web.

The NRS uses the following descriptions to help you identify legitimate Web sites and content.

Commercial site are identified by .com, meaning the site is a business; educational institutions use .edu; U.S. government sites use .gov; branches of the U.S. Armed Forces end in .mil; nonprofit organizations end in .org; and .net is a catchall for any sites that don’t quite fit the above domains.

The following are additional things to consider in determining if a Web site is legitimate: Does it credit a specific author? Is it up to date? Does it clearly show who owns it? Does it compare with similar sites?

Just as you learn to never turn your back to the water when at the beach, a similar practice can be use in the prevention of Internet fraud. Never turn off your radar; remain alert at all times.

Safeguard your private information such as your social security, credit card or bank account numbers. Be suspicious of e-mails from sources asking for information they should already have. For example, e-mails claiming to be from your bank asking for your birth date, social security number or account information are phishing scams and should be deleted. Finally, keep you PIN and password private and secured. Do not give it out or make it easy for someone to gain access to this information.

There are increasing number of people using the Internet to connect with others worldwide. This includes keeping in touch with people we already know or meeting new people and connecting with them online.

An attractive quality of the Internet for some is that it allows anonymous interaction through social networking Web sites like MySpace.com or chat rooms. However, the anonymity can be a dangerous thing. Have you ever met someone online, chatted with them, then find out they are not who they said they are at all?

The NRS curriculum on Runaway Prevention has a list of tips to remember when meeting people on the Internet:

• Be careful what you post: Remember that anyone can see the information or pictures you post online, from friends, teachers, bosses, even your parents. Use caution and avoid posting your address, location, screen names or other identifying or personal information.

• Be careful who you trust: Some people use the Internet to be who they want to be and not who they really are. Be careful when getting to know someone online and especially if meeting an online friend in person.

• Be careful what you say: Teasing and bullying online can be illegal. Report negative behavior to a trusted adult or to the authorities (police, teacher or Webmaster.)

For more information on Internet Safety, go to www.netsmartz.org or www.webwisekids.org

• Tram Vuong Meadows is the Therapeutic Foster Home Program Therapist for Hale ‘Opio Kaua’i. She can be reached at tmeadows@haleopio.org, or Hale ‘Opio Kaua’i Inc., 2959 Umi St., Lihu’e, HI 96766


Questions?

A support group of adults in our Kaua‘i community have “stepped into the corner” for our teens, to answer questions and give support to youth and their families! Please e-mail your questions and concerns facing our youth and families today to Mary Navarro, executive director of Hale ‘Opio, at mnavarro@haleopio.org.

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