I’ve written before on the dangers inherent in using Facebook – especially for Teenagers/Young Adults – but I think that there is more to say on the subject, and on the subject of Children (that is, those under 18) using the Internet as a whole.
This morning I found a link to a news article – linked here – concerning the charging of two pre-teen girls over the ‘hacking’ and malicious vandalism of a classmate’s Facebook page. The majority of the vandalism was concerned with the defamation of the victim, and the article raises many questions about Internet Security, Cyber-bullying, and several other issues.
Internet security is a major issue for many people – the sheer number of people that fall for various scams is a clear indicator of this – and it isn’t made easier by the fact that every Internet browser has an inbuilt option to save passwords for less secure (i.e. non-bank related) websites. There are three main settings for this function – always ask (normal setting), never save, and always save. It’s not hard to change this setting by accident (since it’s often an easily ticked checkbox), and once you’ve set your browser to automatically save user-names and passwords you have to open (and often really look through) the options menu to turn it off. This can often mean that when you use a friends computer (or more scarily a public one), your password is saved, and anyone who wishes to can then log into your account. This is most likely what happened with the girl in the news article, she logged in once on a friend’s computer, and the web browser saved the password.
This brings us to the issue of Cyber-bullying – which is becoming more and more prevalent as the years go by. This is one of the hardest forms of bullying to combat, as many parents are still not aware of many of the dangers inherent in using the Internet – and often aren’t aware of what their children are doing when they’re online. It’s also one of the most damaging, as there can often be no way of telling how far the words said will travel – things posted on the Internet have a strange ability to find their way to other websites – often to a surprising degree – and even when the original statement/post/etc is removed, it’ll often live on somewhere else.
I know this isn’t the most in-depth treatment of either topic, but entire blogs have been dedicated solely to both of these issues, so anything I place here will never be in depth, but I do want to restate something that I’ve said before, and will probably say many times:
Parents, be aware that the Internet can be a dangerous place for anyone – doubly so for children. Be aware of what they are up to, teach them how to use passwords well, and teach them about the dangers that the Internet holds.