Cyber-bullying. Identity theft. Inappropriate content. The internet can be a dangerous place, but it also has much to offer. On Tuesday, November 18th, 2014, Josh Westover, an internet consultant, visited with students warning them of the dangers lurking online and sharing ideas on how to stay safe while surfing.
Westover is a member the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task force which works closely with Attorney General Sean Reyes. He also works as a consultant for internet start-up companies, so he knows his way around the web. In his presentation, he didn’t pull any punches; he frankly discussed the dangers students can encounter while online as well as addressing the temptations they may face. But his message wasn’t just one of doom and gloom. He gave students the tools to stay safe while enjoying what technology has to offer.
He also shared two websites parents and teens can use to learn more about internet safety or, if needed, report suspicious or malicious behavior. NetSmartz.org has a ton of info. There are links for parents, teachers, teens, tweens, and kids. There‘s also a handy area where browsers can choose an issue—file sharing, cyber-bullying, gaming, identity theft—then get helpful info, tips, and conversation starters.
The other website is Cybertipline.com. This site lets internet users report possible cyber-crimes. It’s operated in conjunction with the FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Secret Service, military criminal investigative organizations, U.S. Department of Justice, ICAC Task Force program, as well as other law enforcement agencies.
During his presentation, Westover compared using the internet to going outside on a sunny day. Being out in the sun is great, but we need to put on sunscreen if we don’t want to get sunburned. Surfing the web unprotected is like going to the beach without your sunscreen. Don’t get burned—surf safe!