Safety on the Internet

Every now and then I get asked to comment on something technical by the local radio stations. They say I have the perfect face for radio.

Anyhoo, today a chap came to talk to me about safety on the Internet, Tomorrow is European Internet Safety Day (what, you didn't know?) and they wanted some quotes about the dangers lurking out there on the wire.

My opinion on this is quite simple. Just about everything in life can be used for good and bad things. Even fluffy cushions can be used to bad purpose (as they are in just about every other "Midsummer Murders" episode). The Internet, mobile phones and social web sites are just the same in this respect. The key is to be aware of what they can be used for, then you can get involved and help.

The oldest trick in the book (and particularly if you have kids) is to put the family computer downstairs in the living room rather than hidden in one of the bedrooms. Then you can see what is going on, and maybe have a go yourself. In these days of WIFI and multiple systems in houses this may be more tricky, but there is now technology you can use to limit the use of the computer and the places that kids can visit. Windows Vista (to name one system at random) has technology for both controlling access to web sites and limiting login times.

With regard to social networking, why not have a go yourself. Apparently there is presently a huge growth in middle aged use of things like MySpace and there is nothing to stop you having a go apart from fear itself. And as for mobile phones, be aware that they can be used for bullying and sending nasty messages.

Apparently when postcards were invented they created a whole new way in which people could get in touch with each other. Rather than having to visit the house to correspond, a lady could scribble a message on a card and then drop it into the nearest postbox. This brought about a revolution in courting behaviour. This took a lot of control (and awareness of what was going on) away from the parents, and was probably the cause of much debate and concern at the time.

Something similar is happening/has happened with mobile communications. I'm sure that when postcards came out there were people sending nasty ones, and you had to learn to deal with this. I guess the same is true with the Internet and mobile phones etc.