February 9th was Safer Internet Day in the UK. It's an initiative involving more than a thousand organisations, coordinated by the UK Safer Internet Centre. Schools, media outlets, even Google were involved. We think we need days like this every week because the headlines about Internet use by young people made for grim reading.
The Internet's an amazing place to find creativity, inspiration and knowledge, but it has dark corners as well and it's difficult to keep up with what various technologies can do - and not just for us poor parents. Gone are the days when you were cool because you had a funky pair of school shoes - now you're only cool if you've got the latest tech and you're constantly on social media. The problem is that kids, well, they're young. They don't understand the implications of posting everything about themselves online.
For example, do they (or you) know that geotagging is usually automatically enabled on most phones and tablets? What does this mean? It means that the device uses GPS to clock where they are when they take a photo. So, if they post it on Instagram, by clicking on Photo Map anyone can work out where that photo was taken, which means that not only do they know what they look like, but what school they go to or where they live or what their friends look like.
Young people need to understand that there's no such thing as being private on the Internet, so when you're standing facing accusations of having invaded their privacy because you want to know what they're up to you can point that out. A friend's daughter recently posted another friend's provisional driving licence on Facebook because she thought his picture was cute. And so it was... along with his name, date of birth, address and most of his driving licence reference number.
It's up to us as individuals to try to protect our personal data because no one else is going to do it for us. We recently came across this disclaimer from US toy company VTech, whose lax security practices led to the leaking of their customers' personal information:
"YOU ACKNOWLEDGE AND AGREE THAT ANY INFORMATION YOU SEND OR RECEIVE DURING YOUR USE OF THE SITE MAY NOT BE SECURE AND MAY BE INTERCEPTED OR LATER ACQUIRED BY UNAUTHORIZED PARTIES."
Staggering, and probably unenforceable, but it's the first unsavoury glimpse of an organisation side-stepping its responsibilities and giving up the fight against cyber-security issues.
So take a look with your children at the Safer Internet Day website, watch out for our Facebook posts and share this article! In old-speak, forewarned is forearmed.
Posted by Kirsty McIntosh on Tuesday, February 9, 2016