• 63°

Internet safety

The internet has forever changed the way we live our lives. In the palm of my hand, using just a smartphone, I can send an email, complete a report, check out what my friends are posting on social media, do my banking, get directions to an afternoon meeting and I can even order dinner and have it ready for pick up on my way home. Wow!

That’s pretty cool stuff. However, along with the cool stuff comes potential dangers that can affect both children and adults. We need to be ever vigilant in keeping ourselves and loved ones safe.

If you haven’t already done so set up filters — especially for children. Many devices come with security features and filters that can limit access to certain content. Limits can be established based on age or even by preventing access to specific websites. Whenever a new app is installed, parents should read through the usage information (I can hear the groans now) and peruse the security settings. This is especially important for social apps. Restrict who can access account information or profiles by toggling between “public” and “private” in the settings when applicable.

Recognize cyberbullying — instances of cyberbullying have grown alongside the popularity of the internet. Cyberbullies tease and taunt through email, social media and other online modes of communication. Cyberbullying can take many forms, including sending mean messages or threats, spreading rumors, posting hurtful messages on social media, stealing account information, sending damaging messages and circulating sexually suggestive pictures or messages about a person.

Anyone, regardless of age, who spends time on social media can fall victim to cyberbullying. By blocking people and limiting the amount of personal information you share online, you can reduce the likelihood of being victimized by cyberbullies.

It is important to understand digital permanence. Once you post it online it is out there —forever. I can’t emphasize that enough. Many people do not fully grasp that the internet creates a trail of information that never really goes away. Computer security experts warn that what goes on the internet tends to stay on the internet, even when one thinks they deleted it. What’s more, you can never verify if a person has made a copy of a post or a picture and saved it.

Images, opinions and more can come back to haunt those who post them online. Stop and think before putting information online. If you might one day be uncomfortable discussing something you shared online, then you should resist the temptation to share it in the first place.

Enjoy the internet but always give careful consideration to the information you share online, holding back any details that might be private or put your security at risk.

Being aware of the dangers of the internet is the first step in keeping yourself and family safe. Be sure to take the second step and set up those filters.

Betty J. Ramsey is publisher for The Farmville Herald and Farmville Newsmedia LLC. Her email address is Betty.Ramsey@FarmvilleHerald.com.