Is the Internet really safe anymore?

By now, most adults and teens own a cell phone and it isn’t uncommon to see a 9, 10 or 11 year old texting these days.

There’s a number of ways a person can reach someone. Anyone can text, tweet, message or email from practically anywhere they are to basically anywhere in the world and it be received in a few seconds. Kudos to technology, right? But, the days of sitting down and writing a letter, addressing an envelope and actually putting a stamp on to mail it (snail mail) just doesn’t happen very much. Do people still receive personal, handwritten letters in the mail? Those were nice.

Remember when two people “liked” each other and they exchanged phone numbers so they could call and talk endlessly about their heartfelt devotion and then spend ten minutes deciding who would hang up first? Silly, right? Now mostly, things are done through texting and chatting online.

Here’s one that most people deal with a lot. Remember when a company had a phone number for customer service that when a customer called for assistance an actual, living person answered it and could work with their customer’s concerns instead of people having to go through automated options answering, “yes” or “no” and pushing in account numbers or numbers for 10 minutes only to be disconnected and have to start over?

It doesn’t take too long to look around and realize how many things have changed over the last 20 years. A lot of these changes were done to make people’s lives easier, save time or make things more convenient and sure, some of them have.

The Internet for instance has made the world available at the click of a mouse. A person can basically find nearly anything through Google or Bing. Researching has become very simple and learning about places around the world, other cultures, medical information, animals, cars, architecture, languages, nearly anything is there if a person wants to find it.

However, along with the Internet came the issue of privacy concerns and it also simplified the ability for criminals to commit crimes like child pornography, identity theft and stalking. Law enforcement basically had to catch up with the times to keep up with the criminals.

As the Internet’s popularity grew, computers were becoming part of nearly every home. What these homes were not getting was the information about how dangerous being on the Internet could be, especially for children and teens and how easily children could be drawn in by a child predator. Many parents were unaware of the dangers online as they weren’t actively using the Internet.

As the social media websites grew more popular and crimes became more obviously connected to these sites, news stories started coming out about Internet safety due to sexual predators stalking kids and teens through websites such as MySpace first and then Facebook. Suddenly more parents were becoming aware of this growing concern over Internet safety and changes needing to be made.

Social media websites needed to keep their users safe and block users under certain ages from being on their websites. They were made very aware that sexual predators were going online, becoming friends with minors, chatting, setting up face to face meetings, getting their personal location information and planning sexual encounters with underage children. This was being done with children using their computers right in their homes, mostly unaware of who they were chatting with online and what they would be encountering when they went to meet this person.

Laws were not set up to prosecute this type of crime where stalking or setting up a meeting with a minor was done online.

The first sexual predator law was Megan’s Law, passed in 1994 in response to the rape and murder of 7 year old Megan Kanka.

President George W. Bush signed two laws to make it much harder for child molesters to lurk with anonymity on the web, especially at social networking sites. One law is called the “KIDS Act of 2008”, which requires registered sex offenders to provide “Internet identifiers”, including email addresses, to state sex offender registries.

Bush also signed the “PROTECT our Children Act of 2008” which requires the Department of Justice to create and implement a national strategy, as well as a new task force for tracking down predators on the web and prosecute them.

Although laws have been put in place and there has been more awareness drawn to issue of sexual predators being online, parents need to continue to be more aware of what their children are doing online, who they are talking to, what sites they are visiting and keep computers in an area of the house where it can be visible when children are online.

Recently, both Facebook and Twitter have added applications that allow users to opt in and share their actual locations with other users. This shows their current longitude and latitude location with other users and also allows advertisers to see this information as well. The user has the ability to change their privacy settings if they understand how to do so. As in the past though, this has upset both Facebook and Twitter users but some have come to like the service, others have learned to opt out of the service while others have chosen to cancel their accounts.

Sadly, most laws that are made to protect our society from online predators or online fraud do not prevent something from happening and only come into light after something has already happened and it is too late.

One in five U.S. teens, who regularly use to the Internet say they have received an unwanted sexual solicitation via the Web. Solicitations were defined as requests to engage in sexual activities or sexual talk, or to give personal sexual information.

25% of children/teens have been exposed to unwanted pornographic material online.

Only around 1/3 of households with Internet access protect their children with filtering or blocking software.

With adults and children walking with a Smart Phone in their hands and “connected” 24 hours a day online, Internet safety is a must. By having that device in a person’s hand, there are certain responsibilities involved and those start by understanding Internet safety. For parents, when giving a child the “privilege” of using the Internet or having a phone that has text or Internet abilities, there are multiple responsibilities that go along with that for both the parent and the child.

Safety should always come first and if it questionable whether or not the child is ready for the responsibility, maybe doing without the data part of the plan or making other limitations could save their life.

Possibly moving a computer from a bedroom to the living room could save someone’s life.

Making laws and passing them to protect society is done in Washington D.C. but setting down rules and fulfilling a parent’s responsibility is something that should be passed down through each generation. The responsibility of protecting each child will never change even though life may continue to rapidly change.

To find more information on Internet safety or sexual predators in your area, please visit the following links.


National Center for Missing & Exploited Children



Locate sexual predators in your area



Florida Sexual Offenders and Predators



CyberSitter11



CyberNanny on Windows Vista