Safety, It's Our Middle Name!
Internet safety has gotten a bad rap recently. Too many people think that either you can't be safe online or that to be safe you have to stay off of Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. But that's not true. You can be safe online. Parry Aftab, our founder and Executive Director, says that "the only risk we can't protect ourselves and our children from online is being denied access. We have solutions for everything else."
What are those solutions? You just need to think before you click (or as our kids prefer - "ThinkB4uClick.") You need to use privacy settings, security tools and choose trusted sites and services. You need to understand good digital hygiene, select passwords that are easy for you to remember, but hard for others to guess. And, you have to be careful about what you share and with whom you share it. (To learn more about digital hygiene...)
We all know not to operate heavy machinery when "under the influence." The Internet and digital technology are about as heavy as machinery can get. We call it a "DUI" when we drive under the influence. When you use digital technology when angry, overly-tired or tipsy, consider it a "DTUI" - using digital technology when under the influence. Our kids get into trouble when their impulsive actions or carelessness hurt themselves or others online. And we can lose our jobs, significant others and spouses, lines of credit and reputations when we act impulsively or carelessly too.
Driving distracted? You can get killed or seriously hurt and so can others. Driving without both hands on the wheel and both eyes on the road is dangerous. And it may be against the law, too. You don't have to turn off technology, you just need to use it in smarter and hands-free ways. To find out why WiredSafety is trying to help "Curb Distracted Driving" and how we are doing it, read more...
WiredSafety.org has lots of tip lists, guides, tutorials, classes, videos and articles to help you stay safe online. But, perhaps one of our Teenangels said it best - staying safe online is easy. Just remember one thing..."don't be stupid!" Good advice that we should all follow.
WiredSafety United Kingdom
If there's something you'd like us to cover in our international area, please let us know. We'd like to hear your ideas! We're also anxious to meet other international online advocacy groups and work together. If you'd like to help us provide help in your corner of the globe, let us know.
WiredSafety has thousands of members spread all over the globe. Many of those members are here in the U.K. WiredSafety U.K. does not exist separately from this International organisation in the same way as your head does not live separately from your body. We exist within the overall framework of WiredSafety but, having a separate mini-site means that we can address issues, offer resources and deal with problems that are specifically U.K. related.
"Never meet strangers from the Internet" You hear that everyday. You have probably even lectured your kids about it. Pretty sound advice, isn't it?
But, what about all the great things you'd miss if you followed that rule? You'd never find that vacation rental you have always dreamed about, your soul mate, the plumber who shows up on time or great deals on collectibles. You'd never sell that old clunker, your house or nab that job you wanted. There are many opportunities to connect, buy, sell, search and get help online. And, the truth is, if you are smart, careful and bring some sumo wrestling friends along with you, you can be safe and still meet people in real life that you had first met online.
But the risks are just as real. Murders, rapes, kidnapping and assaults, fraud, larceny, stalking - while they may not happen as often as you think they do, they happen too often. And in most cases are 100% preventable if you take some time to think and do it right.
The volunteers at WiredSafety and cyberlawyer Parry Aftab have been helping everyone stay safer online since 1995. They volunteer from their homes, work and school to help victims of cyberabuse and cybercrime, educate consumers and young people and advise policymakers and the industry on safer surfing and digital use. Here are some quick and easy "safe shopping", "safe selling" and "safer encounters" tips to follow:
- Do your homework - Use trusted sites, do some comparison shopping and when you find what you want, "Google" the company, website, person, address, email, contact information and product. (Bing, Yahoo and Facebook them too!) Scams, crooks, registered sex offenders, and ex-spouses may pop up. It's a simple step that can save you money, heartbreak and harm. Ask for references, if you can. And check them out by phone. (It's harder to fake 6 different people by phone than by email.)
- Phone a friend - Run the deal or encounter by someone you know and trust. Sound too good to be true? (Then it probably isn't true!) Does something feel wrong about it? Trust your gut and your friend's advice. And, while you're at it, take the friend with you when you go. And have at least one friend with you when showing your things to potential buyers or renters. Two may be "company", but three (or more) is safer. (Especially if they are that sumo wrestler we mentioned earlier.)
- Do it in public - You are much safer when others are around. Getting cornered alone in your or their basement when you are selling or buying that antique dresser isn't fun. So move what you are selling into the driveway, onto your lawn or porch or into the lobby or garage of your building. The extra work is worth it! Ask them to do the same if they are selling, or hand them your digital camera to take a pic for you on the spot (to confirm there is really a dresser.) Blame it on a bad knee, fear of the dark or asthma, if you want to avoid confrontation. Or post your friend at the door and you go alone.
- Keep a record - Print everything out - the ad, the email chain, pictures, directions, names and addresses. Save voicemails and texts. Ask if the item is new, used or refurbished. Print out comparison shopping info too. Many online "deals" are more expensive than current sales at a local store you like and trust. Let others know where you are (even if you bring a friend) or who is expected to arrive. Use your cellphone to snap a pic of them, their car or license plate. It's a valuable record if the item turns out to be stolen, counterfeit or broken, or their check bounces (don't take checks!) or they start harassing you.
- Report what you find - If someone is helpful, delivered what they promised, was easy to work with and deserves praise, share that with others in real life and online. You may be able to "rate" the buyer or seller online. If they aren't, share that too. And if you suspect fraud, criminal activity or encountered problems, report it. Do not pass go, or collect $200, just call your local police department (or theirs if they are not in your town), tell them what you know, what you suspect and the pics you took with your cell phone. The person you report may be off the streets with your help, and not able to hurt others not as savvy as you are.
Craigslist Safety - Craigslist Tips
While you might think you have found your soul mate, only time (in real life, not just online) will tell.
- Treat any first "real life" encounter as a first and blind date. No matter how much you know about them, you don't really "know" anything. Take it slow and trust your gut. (And bring a friend to meet in a public place.)
- Be honest and demand honesty. Shaving off a couple pounds or a few years may not be criminal. But it's not smart to start a relationship off built on lies. (Some cyberdating sites offer background (and marital status!) checks.)
- If things don't add up, do some subtraction (like leaving the place, ending the communication or defriending someone). It's easy to research someone's Facebook and pose as their perfect mate, for lots of different reasons. Don't let them follow you home or see your car, if it can be avoided.
- Don't share personal info too early and guard your privacy. Use Craigslist's email anonymizer, so you don't have to share your real email with anyone online. Get a disposable email address, like Hotmail, Gmail or Yahoo. Use that for all communications and if things don't end well, toss it away. Consider buying a pay as you go cell phone for early phone communications. It can't be tracked to your house or disrupt your life if you need to stop using it.
Internet Safety 1-2-3!
Each of us has many roles. We are spouses and significant others. We are parents, step and foster parents, adoptive and birth parents, grandparents and great-grandparents, siblings, cousins, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles and lots more. We are also babysitters, childcare experts, and medical and mental health professionals. This section is for all of us that care for, and about, children.
The WiredSafety information, materials and resources in this section cover what people who care for and about children need to know. It has a subsection just for caregivers and babysitters, to help them know what is and isn't trustworthy online. It has special tips for grandparents looking to buy the latest digital device for their grandchildren to use at their homes or where the children live. And for parents (of all kinds), it gives you the information you need to make good choices that fit your family's values and pocketbook for supervising your children's digital lives.
Everything is built on Parry Aftab's new approach to cybersafety - Internet Safety 1-2-3. Three steps for all households to be safer their way. First you do an inventory of existing devices and connected technologies and survey your needs and ability to devote time to the issues. Second, you determine and set your rules and communicate them to your children and caregivers (including grandparents and family-members). And, third, you enforce them. (Check back soon for our Family Internet Safety Plan app and ways to create the right plan that fits your needs.