Safety is big Internet concern

Published 1:31 am Saturday, October 29, 2011


A few months ago I attended a workshop on Internet safety. I was very impressed with this speaker and learned a lot more than I thought I would. I grew up during a time when computers were first coming out and it was not until well after I graduated high school that they started to show up in everyone’s home. The Internet was only starting to be used by universities and colleges. Internet was not something everyone had or even wanted. Now it’s pretty much in most people’s homes, schools and businesses. Internet is something we take for granted. It’s like TV remote controls are now. Yep, most of us my age can remember when we were the remote control for our parents’ TVs!

Since now my profession is working with children, I have seen many of them, including my own, not only very adept at the Internet and computers, but also their cell phones. Most cell phones now come with Internet access. And if you aren’t aware of it by now you soon will be. The social world as many of us parents and now grandparents grew up in is long gone. It’s different now and we can’t change it. We can only learn to accept it and grow with it. But we need to learn how to keep ourselves and our children safe.

Anyway, my thoughts on that workshop were that if someone like me who tries to keep up with Internet and social media safety did not know some of this stuff, many others do not either. Simple things such as reading the 100 pages or more of “user agreement” stuff when you sign up for any social network (SN) such as Facebook, myspace, Twitter, etc. need to be read or at least looked at. Just because more than a million people are using it doesn’t mean it’s safe. And those user agreements change way too often. Things I learned that really opened my eyes were that these SNs keep everything, forever, and can always access them. When you close something or delete it, it’s not gone.

In speaking with the children I work with, the majority of them do not believe this. We tell them over and over but unless it’s told in a way that will affect them in some way, such as future jobs or college, they are not going to believe it. When several HS students were told that the new trend for “head hunters,” human resources in business, and even some colleges can and do hire someone to search prospective employees, you should have seen their faces. They were disbelieving. Yes, there is now a new niche out there in the job world: find and research prospective college student, possible scholarship recipients, and job applicants. These people find all those “hidden” and previously thought “deleted” pictures of them which were once posted on their favorite SN and that they might not want their parents to see, or comments they have made can be found. These days, in this vast world of information, prospective employers and colleges want to know the applicant and what better way than searching those social networking sites?

There is so much about the Internet that we take for granted. It can be a positive experience; keeping up with family far away, locating employment, research, finding the best prices on the newest items we want for home, and of course shopping. But we need to learn to be safe, as well.


Lisa Patterson is a licensed counselor in Alabama & Florida, Nationally Certified Counselor and a Registered Play Therapist who specializes in play therapy and children’s issues. She is in private practice in Andalusia and may be contacted at 334.222.7094.