Understanding the Internet

The most important thing every parent and child needs to understand about the Internet is this: Once something is on the Internet it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to completely delete it.

Yes, there are ways to minimise how many people see a particular piece of information, and the quicker something is removed after placing it online, the less likely it is to be widely available. However, everything that finds its way online gets stored on a computer, backed up, duplicated, redistributed, and spread far and wide. There’s no easy way for the average person to know in how many places a particular piece of information is stored, or what those who are storing that information are doing with it. Even trusted services and companies may fall victim to hackers and fraudsters; supposedly secure or sensitive information can be compromised and stolen.

This leads us to the first rule of Internet: Don’t put anything online that you aren’t prepared for anybody to see.

This rule isn’t supposed to send you into a paranoid panic, but to make you aware that it’s very hard to control exactly who sees something once it makes its way online.

Take Facebook. It has some nifty security/privacy features, but…

  1. Many people don’t know how to use them properly;
  2. You can’t control how someone you share a photo or status with will then share that (knowingly or otherwise);
  3. You can’t tell when and where people you trust will view what you share with them, or who they tell ‘in passing’;
  4. the Facebook system itself has been known to screw up from time to time. Either privacy settings go wrong, allowing items to be viewed by anyone, or someone’s account gets hacked or they add a dodgy app which steals sensitive information.

Understanding the Internet beast and holding on to this golden rule is the first step in protecting your adopted child.