The Internet is a wonderful place and can create many positive experiences for people of all ages. A vast amount of information is available with a simple click of a mouse. Great deals, convenience and choices are found all over the Internet. However, when exploring what the Internet has to offer, users must be smart to make the most of the online experience. The Internet is a very real place and there is good reason to be exercise caution when using it. The same dangers that exist on the street exist on the Internet.
Risks for Children
Children are often more advanced than their parents on the Internet (Coalition for Children, 2000). Young people are more comfortable with computer technologies, schools are going online rapidly and the Internet is growing in many new ways. Safety in this environment is an evolving issue, as technology holds more information, opportunity and richness of experience, than danger. However, children must understand the risks involved with using the Internet safely.
There is a great deal of risks involved with the Internet pertaining to children. The most common risk for children is exposure to pornography or other inappropriate material. There are many sites on the Internet that are not intended to be seen by children and children must be protected from them.
These sites are relatively easy to find, even by accident. For example, if an innocent child looking for new cheers types the word "cheerleader" into a search engine, he or she will find sites leading to pornographic material.
Children are also at risk of being lured into chat rooms or communicating with other Internet users that might expose them to inappropriate things. They may also be invited to join in acts that are dangerous or illegal. It is difficult to protect children from the dangers of the Internet entirely. However, it can be very beneficial to instruct children on procedures that help them use the Internet safely.
Children should be advised to stay away from sites that make them uncomfortable (NetNanny). In addition, they should be advised not to communicate with strangers on the Internet. It is important to allow children the freedom to roam the Internet yet they should be aware of its dangers.
Many people on the Internet do not have good intentions. People can pretend to be anything they want to be on the Internet. Adults have pretended to be children to lure children into talking to them.
Children must understand that, under no circumstance, should they reveal personal information over the Internet. Rather than giving out their real names, phone numbers, addresses, school names or other personal information, they should use aliases on the Internet.
Unfortunately, one of the greatest risks of the Internet is difficult to prevent. Child molesters have been known to use the Internet as a tool to meeting and kidnapping children. Children should be warned about meeting people on the Internet and restricted from going out with their Internet "friends" or calling strangers on the telephone without parental supervision.
Parents may be held legally or financially responsible for whatever their children do on the Internet. Children may have access to their parents' credit card numbers or other financial information, and the temptation to buy products on the Internet is great. Children should be aware that financial information should never to be given out by anyone without parental consent.
Children tend to download games and programs from the Internet more than any other age group. There is a risk that they may inadvertently download a virus that could damage a computer or lose all of the computer's data.
Children must be trained on the proper use of the Internet before executing any files they download. An updated virus checker should check all executable files before they are executed.
Basically, the best way to keep children safe on the Internet is to make sure that they are aware of all the risks involved with the web and to encourage parents to join them and take an active interest in what they are doing.
In addition, children can be protected from exposure to pornography, explicit language and other inappropriate interactions on the Internet through the use of online groups, such as the Parental Control Center, which assist parents in blocking chat rooms, instant messages, bulletin board services, news groups and pornographic sites (Coalition for Children, 2000).
Computer viruses are an unavoidable risk of the Internet. Basically, viruses are self-replicating pieces of software. However, many of these viruses are specifically designed to wreak havoc on computers by changing the way they work. These changes may be as simple as displaying a message to Internet users, or as destructive as erasing all of a computer's data.
There are many types of viruses. One of the most common forms is a boot sector virus, which appends itself to floppy disks. If an infected disk in left in a floppy drive, it can copy itself onto the boot sector of a computer's hard drive.
Program sector viruses attach themselves to other programs and infect any file that the infected computer runs when it launches a program.
Macro viruses change the template used to make documents or spreadsheets, infecting all documents or spreadsheets opened with the program.
E-Mail viruses can infect your computer through e-mail. These viruses are widespread and have a variety of results. For example, an infected e-mail file attachment can send itself to everyone in the computer's address book before bringing down the entire network.
McAfee.com's Virus Information Library has created a list of tips that assist Internet users in safely using the Internet and avoiding viruses (McAfee Web Site, 2002). The most basic tips include:
Beware of unexpected or unsolicited e-mail attachments. McAfee advises that Internet users delete or research unsolicited e-mail attachments from unknown senders before opening them. E-mails are the most common means of spreading viruses, as they are easy and effective.
Use an anti-virus program to regularly scan the hard drive and scan all incoming e-mail attachments and files.
Anti-virus program can be implemented to provide regular check-ups for viruses. These programs can run in the background of the computer to eliminate risks. Due to the fact that viruses are constantly evolving, it is important to use a program that provides regular updates.
Data files should be backed up on a regular basis.
Computer viruses can corrupt or destroy data on one or more files. Regular backups enable users to recover data more easily in the event that a virus damages all of the computer's files.
Purchase or obtain files or software only from trusted sources.
Many types of software pose various risks, including a higher risk of having one or more viruses. This tip is relevant to software or files that are downloaded over the Internet, that come as attachments to e-mail, or that are purchased at a store.
Avoid forwarding e-mail attachments unless they are first scanned for viruses.
Using an anti-virus program that scans all incoming e-mail attachments is the only way to safely to forward the attachment. Otherwise, attachments may carry viruses.
Spammers are another unavoidable aspect of the Internet. Spam is mostly the junk e-mail found in email boxes around the world. Spam consists of marketing and sales offers, from discount life insurance to pornography.
Spammers have a variety of ways of getting email addresses (Help Desk: x2400, 2002). On web sites, they lure people into giving the e-mail addresses of their family and friends, as well as their own, by offering prizes, hosting contests and more. Any web page that requests other people's e-mail addresses is probably doing so for the purpose of sending unsolicited e-mail.
The number one rule in avoiding spam is to never respond to spam. When an advertiser gets a response, it alerts him or her that the responder is a prime target fro more spam, launching a vicious cycle. Advertisers who send spam in text format have no way of knowing if their messages are read, unless they get a response.
In addition, Internet users should read the fine print before ever giving out their own or someone else's e-mail address, and encourage their friends to do the same (Stratton, 2002). Even if an e-vite service is used to send invitations, it is used to get addresses for spam.
Spammers even guess probable e-mail addresses. There is nothing an Internet user can do about this except ensure that they are unable to confirm their guess. Spammers place images or links into their messages, and can confirm that the image was viewed. Internet users should avoid following these links.
On-line contests are a popular way to collect e-mail addresses for the purpose of sending spam (Welp, 2002). Many of these companies will sell your address, others will use it only internally but Internet users should be aware that if they ask for…