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An immigrant’s perspective on the dangers of Internet

As we welcome spring, it’s also time for new beginnings and an influx of advertisements for phone applications that helps us lose weight, and other internet-based developments. I’m so used to these now, but it did bring on a reflection period to my original introduction to the internet.

I remember a time when I was maybe 7 or 8, and we bought our first ever computer in Romania. I was the happiest kid in the world to get to play Solitaire - which I did on repeat. Then I found the wonders of internet searching (what we millennials now call “googling”) and boy, what wonders! I’ve always had a creative mind and as a child this was no different. So when I learned about Ancient Egypt, it became my obsession. I used to pour over pages and pages of text to find information, always leading to more and more information. I basically saw the internet as this massive encyclopedia designed to enhance my education. And I took advantage.

Imagine my surprise when I moved to Canada and found out not only is internet in every household, it’s also in every school. I was amazed by the opportunities and eager to continue increasing my education. While I became more proficient in using computers, I also became aware not all kids my age were using it for the same purposes. So I got introduced to the joys of messenger and social media, which in turn opened a slew of dangers I wasn’t aware of. As an adult, I’m amazed i survived that stage. And scared to death for my future children.

Because while some will continue to use the internet for education, it is now also a honey trap. A tool used by criminals of all kinds - from hackers to pedophiles and people with ill intentions. Even more dangerous is accessibility. Most everyone and their kid has a phone, for the most part some kind of smart phone. While access to apps like calculators and dictionaries is great, there is a darker side to it. A while back there was an article about an app for kids that had gone viral, and which police soon discovered was being used by middle graders. Kik Messenger let kids text for free, but allowed communication with strangers and chatting. The app’s security secure and it enabled a lot of pedophiles to create profiles and connect with these children. The police eventually put a stop to it and publications in newspapers ceased its use.

Similar situations are easy to identify. But what happens when children give access to their private life through all kinds of applications on smart phones? As a parent, how can you protect them, especially if you are new to Canada and do not know most of the dangers that exist? There is no easy answer. Rather, the conversation with the children must be open. When there are dangers to every click on the internet, there is no possibility of saying nothing. Yes, it's a different culture here. Children prefer to have friends, not parents. But that does not matter when it comes to their lives. Monitor the time children spend on the internet - and the websites they visit. It's important. On the other hand, as adults, we need to know about the dangers that exist. Ignorance is not an excuse. If we live in a world that is 99% based on the internet, where homes are smart with all sorts of gadgets, then we have to know. Only through information can we be prepared to protect our children – and ourselves.

The Canadian government has a good starting point on the Cyber Safe website, https://www.getcybersafe.gc.ca/index-en.aspx. In the next issue, I will continue with the dangers of the Internet and the permissions we do not realize we give.

by Alexa Whitewolf    4/8/2019


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