The Internet. It is undeniably one of the modern world’s greatest inventions, and the main source of information gathering for many people. It is also a daily mode of communication, along with text messaging. Even though we have phones with us all day, it seems as if phone calls are an old-fashioned anomaly, a relic of a by-gone era. In this day and age, it is as if every man, woman, and child – from toddlers to senior citizens – has technology at their fingertips.
Of course, in an article about the Internet, I would be remiss to not mention The social network of all social networks. After all, whether you like it or not, Facebook is a part of our every day lives; it has even changed the way we speak: since Facebook, the word “friend” has now become a verb, i.e. “I need to friend her.” The advent of Facebook took place when I was in my first year of university. I remember when a friend of mine with whom I went to high school, and subsequently college asked me if I had “The Facebook” during one of our breaks from class. Prior to that, I had never even heard of the site. She told me all about it, how you could add friends and people you knew, write a message to someone on his/her page, post photos, and provide information about yourself to others by listing your answers to the questions asked in the “about me” section. I told her it sounded interesting, so she told me she would send me an invitation by email.
That night, I signed up for “The Facebook.” During Facebook’s infancy, a user was required to be a university student. It was further limited to only elite schools. I filled out the required information, and quickly had myriad friends on my little piece of Internet acreage.
When I first filled out my “about me” section, I didn’t realize the power of what I was showing others. Since then, I have grown a few years older and wiser. I have also become very intrigued about Internet privacy and security. Owe it to being overprotective of my younger family members, but what younger children are able to do on the Internet is baffling to me. It is so different than even 10 years ago. I do have a Facebook account, which is used mostly to keep up with family and old friends, as I’ve moved quite far from where I grew up. Apart from being able to search my name and see my current profile photo, you won’t see much else. With the rise of people having access to Facebook, it unnerves me how much anyone can find out about your personal information.
Lately, I’ve started using Facebook to promote my writing. Soon, I will create a public profile so that I won’t expose friends and family to unwanted Internet traffic. I have to admit, it disconcerts me to see that there are not higher security guidelines for social media – especially since teenagers and children are so lax with their security settings, and pedophiles, hate groups, and other unpleasant people (for lack of a better term…), can so easily access the Internet and these accounts.
For example, as I mentioned before, one used to need a university email account to access Facebook. Now, I have seen kids as young as eight – EIGHT – have an account. These eight-year-olds, especially if not monitored by a parent (what parent would let a child have an account is beyond me, but that’s another story), have no idea that what they put on their pages, be it photos, phone numbers, or statuses, can easily be accessed by anyone – chiefly, those unwanted and unpleasant individuals that I wrote of earlier – in the world. Teenagers are even worse. Because they work so hard to fit in and be “popular,” forget any security at all. I have seen it in my own family, and I just have to shake my head. I have seen “friend” lists of 3,000 people and higher. Who in this world knows 3,000 people well enough to consider them all friends? I have challenged friends (real life, human, friends) with 500 people on their accounts to tell me how they knew all of them. Needless to say, they failed. And these were very popular and well-liked peers of mine.
It’s not just Facebook, though. Twitter, YouTube, and Pinterest are culprits just to name a few. Just the other day, I read an article about some children in the U.S. who used XBOX’s online feature to communicate with an adult they did not know, and have disappeared. As far as I know, it has been a week, and there is still no trace of them. Interviews with the parents revealed that they knew their children played games online, but didn’t bother monitoring them – even though their children previously had similar “disappearances.”
I don’t have children yet, so I can’t critique parenting with a fair view. However, based on stories like these – they seem to be a dime a dozen these days – and having experience in the law enforcement field, I would monitor my children’s Internet usage carefully, making safeguards that deny access to certain sites, and continually educate myself with the new technology so that when they figure out how to bypass (the safeguards), they will be blocked yet again. Furthermore, my future children may deem me as “lame,” but forget about Facebook and a mobile phone until I feel that they are mature enough to have them. They want to speak with their friends (notice I write speak, actual human contact)? They will be more than welcome to use the telephone. Honestly, what will my (hypothetical) five-year-old be doing during the school day that would require her to take a break and text message someone?
My point here is not to say that the Internet and Facebook – or any social media – are “the devil.” They aren’t. They are things made with good intentions that have been, and are being, used by the wrong hands. I just believe that higher security standards need to be made, or reinstated (i.e. Facebook’s past practices), and parents need to educate themselves, stay abreast with new technology, and monitor their children when they use these things.
Let’s not forget that they can also talk to their children about consequences and dangers of the Internet and what they put out there for everyone to view. I mean, really talk to them – don’t send them a text message about it. Explain to them that even if they delete a less-than-complimentary photo, it’s never really deleted, and future employers may be able to see it.
Like I said, it’s not all bad. I have Facebook, Twitter, obviously WordPress, another writing account, and an Instagram. All except Facebook, where my security settings are high, are open to anyone. However, I am also an adult, aware that whatever I post is public domain. And I’m using them to build my brand an market myself – something they were originally intended to do.