Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Internet Safety

    We teach our children almost as soon as they can walk and talk, DON'T TALK TO STRANGERS!  We tell them that it doesn't matter if they offer you candy or offer to show you their puppy, never ever talk to strangers.  We want to keep our babies safe from harm.  We have told them NEVER TALK TO STRANGERS, but not too many of us think to tell them that this includes the computer.  The computer is a life line, it keeps us connected with people around the world.  It seems so very harmless, until you really begin to think about it.
    I thought that I had protected my children from internet predators.  I have our family computer in the living room.  I limit their computer time.  I have told them NEVER give out any personal information on the computer, NEVER TALK TO STRANGERS on the internet, no matter how nice they seem, even if they say that they are your age!  I thought I was so savvy, so smart, and I was so very wrong.  I tried to protect them from predators, but I forgot to consider that in time I might need to save them from themselves.
    Last night I had the pants scared off me!  Myself and a group of my friends attended a seminar that was provided by Madoc Public School and our school.  It is a seminar that I as our school's School Council chair had really been pushing for.  I thought that we would have a packed house because everyone would want to do what they could to protect their children.  The price was right for parents to attend... free.  It was presented by a renowned expert, Steve Chapelle.  Snacks and beverages were provided, once again free of charge.  There was information that we could taken home with us, and this included a handbook that covered the information provided in the presentation by Mr. Chapelle.  As my group of friends and I drove from Tweed to Madoc, I kept hoping that we would be able to find a seat.  We arrived at the school to see the school parking area practically deserted.  We walked into the gym only to discover that there was an abundance of chairs.  There may have been 20 people in attendance, and that included newspaper reporters.  I was shocked, and slightly bewildered.  Why would parents not want to take advantage of this free information?  Information that could ultimately someday save their child's life!  It was well advertised, and yet there was a poor turn out... it made no sense!
    Many parents really missed out on an incredible opportunity.  I had my eyes opened, in a very scary way.  I discovered just how very little that I knew about the internet, all of us in attendance did.  Last night Mr. Chapelle covered how to set parental controls, and why it is such a good idea.  He talked about ways to monitor what your children are looking at on the internet, and what should be setting off red flags.  As I mentioned above, it has been my goal to protect my children from predators, but it never occurred to me that I may have to protect them from themselves.  What do I mean by this?  If I use the monitoring programs I can see if my children look up drugs, pornography, I can see what they repeatedly come back to, things that I would not otherwise know about.
    The computer seems like such a passive thing.  Technology is always growing and changing, and some of us dinosaurs are left far off in the dust.  Our children are not afraid of the new technology the way some of us are, it doesn't ever occur to them that they should be afraid of it.  They have grown up never knowing anything but having a home computer (unlike those of us who felt like our families had really made it with our Vic20).  Add our children's comfort with technology to the fact that most children and young adults feel like they are invincible.  Nothing bad could ever happen to them.  That is a dangerous combination of elements.  How many of us have young adults and teens on as our Facebook friends?  I see these kids posting suggestive pictures of themselves, or pictures of themselves partying.  It does not occur to them that these pictures could ever have dire consequences.  The thing that Steve Chapelle said last night that most terrified me, was that with the exception of Facebook, when kids, or you post a picture on the internet, anyone can find your coordinates.  That means that when you post that fun picture of your children in their bathing suits playing in the backyard sprinkler, a pedophile can access them and use GPS to find your child!  That scares the HELL out of me!
    So now I have all of this information.  I know that I am woefully ignorant.  I know that I need to take steps to better educate myself about technology.  I know that I was too smug for too long.  If you have the opportunity to attend an internet safety seminar, GO!  If you have the opportunity to book Steve Chapelle to speak to your parents group, do so. .  The car ride home from Madoc was not quiet.  We were all chatting, full of anxiety, vowing to learn more.  I am so glad that I went.

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