Dos And Don’ts Of Online Shopping

Let me begin with a confession. I am addicted to shopping. Nothing lifts off those blues faster than a purchasing spree across several of my favourite stores. And not only for myself or my family- I am happy to accompany others too on their shopping spree; like for my cousin’s trousseau, my sister’s kid’s birthday return gifts or New year’s gifts for my friend’s business associates. I am equally happy shopping for school uniforms and groceries, decorative items and linens. Shopping is cathartic for me.

But the mad traffic and the even madder crowds at the shops often act as deterrents. At such times, online shopping is a heaven-sent opportunity to shop from the safety and comfort of your homes. Another plus point is that you don’t have to lug around heavy packages, nor have to pack and parcel gifts to friends! You simply ask them to deliver the packages to the address of your choice!

For shopophoebics (there is no term for fear of shopping) like my husband, online shopping is a boon! Our preferred sellers send him birthday and anniversary reminders and he just selects and pays for what he wants to gift me that year. And voila! You have the Husband of the Year- the pride of my life, the envy of my friends.

However, as Cybermum India, I can’t but add a word of caution. You should be extra cautious while doing online transactions because:

  • You don’t know the seller personally
  • You can’t verify the address, phone number, sales figures
  • You can’t physically check the goods
  • You are unsure of the site’s security policies and ethics

But it definitely does not mean you keep away from online shopping. It just means be careful. Do a background check of the seller you select. Start with the site address. Check whether it looks authentic and begins with https//. Another check is to see if the site is encrypted, with a lock sign on top right.

It is recommended that you read  buyer reviews. You should also find out whether they have any return or refund policies. Most importantly, you need to investigate payment modes-do they have a safe Visa Secure or Paypal payment mode? It is preferable to select credit cards or “Cash-on-delivery” modes of payments. Check for address and contact nos. If possible, call up their customer service and discuss their sales, delivery, and refund policies, when placing orders for the first time. Upon delivery, check the items minutely. Check your credit card statements. Keep printed records of all transactions.

McAfee lists some Do’s and Don’ts of Online Shopping

Do’s : 

• Do your homework, research web sites

• Do pay by credit card or online payment services

• Do buy from a web site that has encryption

• Don’t buy from a web site unless it is certified for safety

• Do check the web site’s policies before you order.

• Do use comprehensive computer security software

• Don’t forget to inspect your new purchase as soon as it arrives

• Do check your credit card statements

Don’ts : 

• Don’t buy from spammers

• Don’t pay by debit card, cash, or wire transfer

• Don’t buy from a web site unless it is certified for safety

• Don’t buy from a site with which you aren’t totally comfortable

• Don’t forget to inspect your new purchase as soon as it arrives

• Don’t let children buy games, gifts online without any adult supervision

For additional information, check this site

Schools And Colleges Need to Introduce Cybersafety programs

I sometimes get this feeling that technological progress has caught most of us unaware and unprepared. By us, I obviously do not refer to those Tech Gods to whom bits & bytes make complete sense; but to people like me who have to grapple with new fundas and gadgets at frighteningly regular intervals. Those of you who are on the same boat as I (read Digital Immigrant parents) will commiserate with me, I know. There is a veritable information explosion taking place around us and we have to struggle to keep pace, to understand, to assimilate and internalise. What kids take like ducks to water, we do have to spend some time picking up. We are new to this technology and as we are not aware of its pluses and minuses we are overwhelmed for we do not know what to do if our children face issues online.

And they do. We know it, have read about it and perhaps have even witnessed it. Every day the papers carry stories of a child being cyber bullied or abused online or worse, committing suicide after facing humiliation on a social networking site. Then there are cases of girls being stalked, computers being turned into zombies, cookies being installed, e-mail hacking, child abusers trying to befriend innocent kids! We read about these cases, feel disturbed but helpless. What shall we do if, God forbid, our own little ones ever face such situations?

We worry because we do not feel prepared to guide our kids when they go online.

My concerns found resonance among the parents of over 1000 children at the Bangalore Spellstar 2013 who attended McAfee India Cybermum’s address on the cyber threat domain. Organised by the Rotary Club, Bangalore South-East, the event attracts huge response from parents & kids alike.

As the discussion caught steam, some of the queries parents voiced included:

  • How do we guide our kids online?
  • What do we tell them to look out for?
  • How do we know whether our geek kids are spending excessive time on the net?
  • What steps must we take to safeguard kids from inappropriate content online?
  • How do I tell my kids not to chat with strangers?
  • How do I block pop-ups?
  • How do I install McAfee and set up parental Controls?
  • My daughter, who’s below 13, wants to sign up on Facebook. What do I do?
  • What must we look out for when our son plays online games?
  • Children do not know how to respond properly to comments? Who can teach them?

This “Who can teach them” is the core issue. Parents, of course, but what if they are not tech-savvy? There was a clamour for net safety education in schools. Parents unanimously agreed that though schools taught computers to kid right from Class I, there were no provisions to teach them cyber safe behaviour and net etiquette. The entire group spoke as one demanding for inclusion of these really vital and topical subjects in the curriculum. After all, schools are the best places to teach kids basic safety and responsibility. Children listen to their teachers and practice what they are taught.

Are school authorities listening?