Has Your Family Taken the Internet Pledge Yet?

Sometimes we need reminders as to why we must continue to follow rules or do things in a particular way. The human mind is very flighty and tends to forget important issues, no matter how well they had been drilled into the head. Especially, if those heads belong to kids and the rules limit their activities.

You guessed it, I am talking about safe Internet usage rules, and ensuring children remember and follow them, always.

I came across a very interesting pledge that McAfee has prepared for parents/teachers just like us. With our pre-teens and teens becoming more and more obsessed with the computers, laptops, iPhones and other smartphones, we are always on tenterhooks about their online safety. But we do not know exactly what we should ask our kids to do or not do. Other than the usual stuff like, ‘don’t access websites containing violent, abusive, or sexual content’; ‘don’t spend the major part of the day on the computer,’ and ‘don’t put up pictures on social networking sites like Facebook,’ we really are confused about what other dangers we should anticipate and take preventive actions for.

Further, it does feel a bit weird to frame internet usage rules for kids who, let’s admit frankly, know more about computers than us. But should that stop us from ensuring the online safety of our kids?

Even if you have installed a comprehensive security software like the McAfee Family Protection Suite that records all your kids’ online activities, it will be beneficial for the children to be responsible about their internet usage. You can turn this into an important value-education by talking about rights and duties. Further, with the internet increasingly becoming a major source of infotainment, education and socialising, everyone must learn the right Internet etiquettes.

The advantage of using the McAfee pledge is that it is readymade; comes from a neutral but authoritative source and the whole family can take it together. This way the kids will not feel that adults have yet again imposed some new rules on them. Further, they will be mindful of their actions to avoid the associated consequences.

Why don’t you print out this form, get the kids’ signature on it, and then put it up in a prominent place near the computer? This way nobody can get off with the lame excuse of “I forgot,” and will have to voluntarily accept the pre-decided penalties. Can you imagine the peaceful co-existence of teens and adults this practice will make possible? It’s bliss!

Keep your kids safe on the net people!


I Know Where You Were Last Evening – Is Location Privacy Threatened?

Let’s face it. Our life is a play, the world is the stage, and each of us considers ourselves the lead actor in the play. So no wonder we want to keep the world updated on what we are doing and where. Continuously. Consequently, the  development of technology  enables us to do just that-tell our friends where we are. The thing is that our exact locations are sometimes recorded without us being aware of it. So is our locational privacy at threat?

What is locational privacy? Locational privacy is the ability of an individual to move in public space with the expectation that under normal circumstances their location will not be systematically and secretly recorded for later use.

Most of us love our privacy and do not want others to know of our activities. But there is no escape these days from devices and services that keep track of our movements and us. These include the fairly common ones like:

a) Swiping credit/debit cards
b) Swiping door entry cards
c) CCTV in hotels/ATMs/Banks/Traffic junctions
d) Cellphones
e) Wi-Fi services that are offered for free
f) Swipe cards at toll booths/metro stations

OK, now you are worried. You didn’t realize did you, that so many services were keeping track of your movements? Anyone can use this information to chart out your daily routine. However, you can’t avoid these, unless you stay put at home.

So I wonder why people willingly join “Foursquare,” “Facebook Places” or keep their Blackberry or other GPRS-enabled services active! I advise them to check out this site to see how they are practically inviting burglaries and/or other felonies.

The other day a friend tweeted, “Holidaying in Singapore with family; amazing city,” with the location of the hotel shown on a small map. All her followers immediately knew that she was away, ergo her house was empty. Did she really want everyone to know the fact or only her close friends? Or take the case of Sumit who met up with friends after work, pleading fever as an excuse to leave work early. His boss searched for him in Foursquare and found him to be at H2O instead! Not a desirable situation to be caught in surely.

I suggest you turn off the “add Location” feature on Twitter and Facebook and switch off your current location on your smartphones so as not to publicize your location.

Recently mashable identified the top 5 location based services (LBS) and Foursquare topped the list.

Don’t get me wrong. LBS do have their uses, like to track cabs, contact fishermen out in the sea, fleet management etc. Parents can also use the GPS enabled devices to keep track of kids when they go out alone, or of caretakers under whose care they leave kids at home. But I would not recommend you use it yourself extensively. Remember, you don’t know everyone you interact with online. So safety comes first, always.