Safer Internet Day – Improving Virtual Lives!
Safer Internet Day now in its eighth year is organised by Insafe – a European Commission funded project – to promote safer and more responsible use of online technology and mobile phones, especially amongst children and young people across the world.
It is celebrated in over 65 countries on the second day of the second week of the second month of the year – and this year it falls on 8th Feb (today!). The topic for 2011 is “our virtual lives” – online gaming and social networking (both most popular with youth) – with the slogan “It’s more than a game, it’s your life“.
Their website (http://www.saferinternet.org/) has quite a few interesting details. Though it is aimed at children, I believe most of what is said is equally applicable for everyone.
- Your Virtual Life can impact your real life – With social networks, the line between virtual and real is blurring and indeed “Virtual is real”. Real life behaviors such as bullying, stealing, rejection, etc. do exist in the virtual world also and your actions in your virtual life can impact on your real life.
- Be responsible online – You are always responsible for whatever you do and say on the internet and your actions have consequences (either legal or other) as in real life. Posting embarrassing, hurtful or compromising stories or pictures of your friends or others might lead to harassment, bullying, humiliation and dismissal which could harm them forever.
- Remember that once something is online, you lose control of it and can never truly get it back – even if you have deleted online content, it may already have been downloaded by other users or could have been archived in the server. The internet is an endless universe where information can circulate forever and never disappear. Material that you post online now could still be visible in 10 years time (and even later!).
- You’re never invisible on the internet- Internet users always leave evidence, the so called ‘cybertrails’ or ‘digital footprints’, when they go online. Every computer has an IP address and this is often the key to finding out who sent specific information.
- Don’t trust anything that sounds too good to be true– When a ‘pop-up’ banner congratulates you on winning the grand prize of the day – a car, 1,000,000 euro, a dream vacation – don’t be tempted to collect your ‘prize’.!
- Don’t click on pop-ups’ indiscriminately – There are ‘pop-ups’ that encourage you to purchase different goodies at a very low price, to take a quiz or to download new and exciting programs. Pop-ups might allow a virus or hacker to obtain your personal information, infect your computer or be transferred to another website. Install a pop-up blocker to protect yourself from pop-up windows.
- Always protect your privacy when you create a profile, chat or play games – Use a nick name to create your online personality and always avoid divulging personal details (yours, your family as well as friends). Remember your “real friends” would anyway have these details and not ask for it.
- Disconnect from the internet when you’re not using it – This will reduce the possibility of hackers or viruses gaining access to your computer.
- Keep your email private – Do not post your email on the web. If you do have to publish your email address, replace the @ by AT or (at): to prevent computers that scan automatically for email addresses to recognise it.
- Protect privacy when you post pictures or movie clips online -The pictures you publish on the web can be viewed worldwide by everybody and they will be stored forever. Ask permission before you take or post pictures of other people.
Helplines http://www.saferinternet.org/web/guest/helplines provide advices on how to deal with problems such as unwanted contacts, cyberbullying or any scary experiences while using online technologies. The website also has guidelines, tools, news and events focusing for online safety and responsible use of the internet and new technologies. For example, UK’s Safer Internet Centre has resource packs for primary and secondary schools that can be downloaded from www.childnet.com/safety/sid.aspx.
Do spread the message and empower the kids to make safer use of the Internet and the newer technologies.