The information superhighway and the Internet revolution have allowed people of all ages, races, genders, and inclinations greater access to knowledge and communication. With more information stored online, more people can read about their favorite subjects without having to run to the library, or purchase an expensive encyclopedia set. With more knowledge organized in a format that can be easy to search through, retrieve, and work with, more people can learn faster and do more research online.
This revolution in information technology and presentation comes with its own disadvantages. Not all information presented online is true or edited, and nothing can surpass the power of a real encyclopedia or reference book in terms of the veracity of the information presented. Not all online forums seeking to help people are populated by experts or, much less, decent Internet users. Not all websites are safe to access, and not all files that you download from the Internet are free from malicious programs that can give hackers access to your computer.
Our children are the greatest beneficiaries of computer and online technology, and they are certainly its greatest victims. While the Internet can help your primary school student look for facts on Thailand, it may lead him or her to sites that advertise on the country’s teeming human trafficking. While the World Wide Web can allow your secondary school student to do research on stem cells, it may ask for his or her credit card to purchase certain articles or books only to turn the tables on you and allow hackers access to the credit card itself. The Internet is home to information as well as dangers, and in order to protect your children best, you will need to know the dangers.
Because children are easily impressionable and can easily place their trust in someone who does good things for them, many ill-meaning people can prey on them and ask them to give information that they shouldn’t. Such predators can operate at many levels, and in many sites. They can come to forums in the guise of someone who can counsel teenagers or help children with their homework. They can come to chat rooms and introduce themselves as grandfathers or grandmothers who want to learn about the Internet.
Predators come in many forms, but their aim will be the same: they will use children for their own selfish ends. They can ask children important information about the children’s parents, leading the way for the predator to break into the house or office and steal important, valuable items. They can ask children to meet them, leading the children to be kidnapped and sold off to the sex or slave trade.
Child pornography, despite the efforts of international governments, has shown no signs of slowing down. More and more children are lured by child pornographers to pose for lewd pictures, participate in indecent, often disturbing acts, and ultimately destroy their fragile childhood. Like predators, pornographers will prey on children’s innocence and pose as trustworthy people.
Purchasing items through online merchants can make shopping easier, especially for housewives who have no time to hop over to the nearest grocery store or mall for things they might need. Online transactions, however, require credit card numbers and addresses, along with other important contact information.
Not all sites are created equal. Site security is becoming more of an issue as identity thieves have stepped up in their efforts to hack into accounts, steal money, and use stolen credit cards to make their transactions. Many online merchants keep a constant vigilant watch over their sites in order to ensure that no hackers enter and steal credit card numbers.
Not all Internet sites and users, however, have the technology to recognize hackers or thieves. Children will usually be the target of such people, as the online medium offers the cloak of invisibility that thieves need to dupe their victims. By posing as someone who works for a child’s father, or an aunt needing money desperately, or even a schoolmate who has met an accident, identity thieves can get credit card numbers from children. Hackers can also access a computer and fetch important information from it, thanks to their techniques of making children believe in their trustworthiness.
The Internet is an exciting marketplace, but it is also a dangerous one. Children are among its greatest victims. While the Internet revolutionizes lives, it can also change them, and sometimes for the worse.