This past Tuesday saw people all over the globe observing Safer Internet Day (SID), with the aim of “promot[ing] safer and more responsible use of online technology and mobile phones, especially amongst children and young people across the world.” Originally spawned as a European event in 2004, support for the cause has expanded significantly since.
As Learn the Net was founded on the principal of providing relevant information to help people learn about how to safely and efficiently use the wide array of Internet resources available to them, it was particularly encouraging to see so many facts and tips being shared in the name of educating and raising awareness on Safer Internet Day. In fact, many statistics were released worldwide to coincide specifically with SID this past Tuesday.
Consider the following examples:
• 37 percent of U.S. children and 44 percent of British children aged eight to 12 access Facebook regularly despite its 13-or-older age regulation.
And this was only the tip of the iceberg! Governments, not-for-profits, and organizations of all types set out this week to raise awareness. Even media broadcasters like the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) are in the act, with the BBC in particular making a week-long event of it with its Share Take Care program.
“Throughout the week, programs across the BBC will be prompting conversations about the unintended consequences of over-sharing online,” said the BBC, “and raising awareness about the little things you can do to manage your online reputation and help others manage theirs.”
This goal ties in well with this year’s theme “connecting generations and educating each other.” The Internet has become an amazing tool that holds relevance to the young and old. Through education and helping each other, we ensure the longevity of that tool.
That said, here are five tips of my own to help put you on your way to a safer Internet experience:
1. Cyberbullying — the act of harassing and tormenting another person online — is becoming more prominent, and many people don’t know how to deal with it. While there are numerous takes on how to handle a cyberbully, the general consensus is to not respond to the attacks, save all correspondence, and let someone (parent, teacher, authority figure) know it’s happening. Check out more tips on OvercomeBullying.org.
2. Always read the opt-out policy of a website. This usually comes in the form of a check box or Yes/No prompt asking you if you wish to have your information shared with third parties or if you wish to receive e-mails or newsletters. It’s easy to just click the “Ok” or “Yes” button without reading when presented with such information, but you shouldn’t. Take the extra time to understand what you’re agreeing to.
3. When using a public Internet-connected device (in other words, a computer or device you don’t uniquely use), always remember to log out. Also, be careful with password saving features! Don’t assume that password saving is disabled in the browser you’re using.
4. Don’t share your passwords with anyone, and encourage others to do the same. I recognize there may be emergencies where you may feel it appropriate to share your password, but don’t do it for all but the most urgent of circumstances. Also, remember the representative of any legitimate company will not ask you for your password. If someone claims to be with a company and asks for your password, don’t give it to them.
5. Read through Learn the Net’s “Stay Safe” articles to learn more about computer viruses, secure transactions, and online privacy.
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In the mid- to late-nineties, online shopping was typically viewed as an intriguing concept but one fraught with unknowns. Today, searching for deals and shopping for clothes, toys, and even food on the Internet is becoming more commonplace. Consider the following statistics:
While these statistics don’t necessarily mean that everyone should turn to the Internet to do more of their shopping, they do point out the continuing trend of consumers increasingly shopping online. Even U.S. online holiday shopping is seeing a boost in numbers this year. And with holiday shopping in full swing for many people around the world, now’s a great time to share a few online shopping tips, especially for those new to the endeavor.
1. Ensure that the online business you’re considering is reputable. Here are a few things you should look for according to Learn the Net:
• Does the vendor have an established history?
• Does the vendor have thorough contact information which includes a phone number, e-mail address, and a street address, not just a post office box?
• Does the vendor have a clear return and refund policy posted?
• Does the vendor belong to organizations such as the Better Business Bureau Online or TRUSTe?
2. As an extension of number two, consider looking for online reviews of vendors, especially if they’re not well known to you. There are several tools online to view vendor ratings, including Google Shopping’s vendor ratings. However, Google doesn’t make it very straightforward to search for a particular seller. One potential tool in your online shopping arsenal is a new site Consumerazzi.net, which has a handy search tool to help you find online store ratings from three ratings sites, with more apparently on the way.
4. If you plan on making a one-time purchase with an online vendor, you may be able to avoid creating a full account and/or saving your credit card information with the vendor. For example, I recently found a great Black Friday deal on a camera at Crutchfield.com. I was pleased that I wasn’t forced to create an account on their website to make the purchase; I most likely won’t be a regular shopper there. Some online vendors do force you to create an account, however. Even then you may still have the option to not save your credit card information. Look for a check box or something indicating such an option.
5. Get familiar with useful online shopping tools to help you find the best deals. And wow, there sure are a lot of them. Here are a few that stand out:
• Slickdeals: a social, user-driven website where users “share information in order to make the best shopping decisions.” Typically includes discounts and sales found by other users on retailer websites.
• Bizrate: one of the most popular comparison shopping sites. Compare prices and leave feedback for sellers. Finding store ratings for a particular vendor can be a bit of a chore, however.
• Woot: similarly social like Slickdeals, Woot takes a unique stance on presenting deals, namely by spotlighting and selling only one item per day. It’s definitely not a practical tool for power shoppers looking for good deals on many different items, but Woot does frequently offer good value on what it spotlights.
• RetailMeNot: both a deal-hunting and coupon-providing site for the savvy shopper. Many online retailers offer a place to insert a coupon code for additional savings on an order. This is a good place to potentially find some.
Photo via Gareth Saunders, Flickr Creative Commons
When you think of the word “Internet,” what immediately comes to mind? Perhaps it’s your favorite website. Maybe you think of a social media tool like Facebook. For others the Internet is synonymous with ideals like freedom of expression and freedom to information. Those in the tech industry may talk about concepts like voice over IP or organizations like the W3C. And on occasion, someone may respond with a rare correlation: the Web browser.
Take for example the growing number of online services at your fingertips. You can pay your credit card bill online. You can order flowers, make hotel reservations, buy plane tickets, and manage your bank account from the Internet. Want to create and share spreadsheets or text documents online with cloud-based Google Docs? Most if not all of these activities require an important piece of software: the Internet browser. Choosing which browser you use to do these activities can sometimes be nerve-racking, however.
At their core, most Web browsers are the same. The standard browser allows you to go to your home page, go back a page using the “Back” button, and bookmark a site for future use. This sort of functionality is expected no matter the browser. Of course, this inevitably leads to the question “with so many similar options out there, how does one decide which browser to use?”
For those who are relatively new to Internet technology, the answer is usually this: choose one that’s both well-supported and stable. This typically means using Microsoft’s Internet Explorer or Apple’s Safari browser. These two browsers have long been a part of the industry, and despite any criticism they receive, they are supported and stable browsers that an Internet newbie needs while learning to use the ‘net.
Yet change is always occurring in the browser industry. Take for example the recent news that when combining both mobile and desktop markets, the behemoth that was Internet Explorer has now fallen below 50 percent market share, compared to its former glory of over 95 percent in 2004. What’s taking Internet Explorer’s place? According to the same report Google’s Chrome and Apple’s Safari browsers are chomping up market share. Mozilla’s Firefox browser has also had an impact. Why? They tout rapid page loads, standards compliancy, and quality Web rendering; Internet users are being won over in the process. These improvements — coupled with greater support — signify more powerful and stable options for not only those new to the ‘net but also to long-time veterans looking for a change.
This sort of adoption means greater demand for mobile Web browsers. Enter Safari, Google’s Android browser, and Opera’s Mini/Mobile browsers. Even upstarts like the Dolphin browser — which recently surpassed 10 million users — are seeking to bring new ways to view Internet content to smaller screens.
What does all this mean for you, the reader? The Web browser on your desktop or mobile device may seem as ubiquitous as the bathroom in your dwelling, but your browser shouldn’t be dismissed as a static mean to an end. Rather, the Web browser should be your friend, which grows and changes with a growing and changing Internet. Why not:
* Try a new browser for a few months and see if you like it. Did you know most browsers allow you to install add-ons and extensions to make your online experience more enjoyable? Examples include the popular Adblock Plus for Firefox, Chrome, and other browsers; CleanPage for Internet Explorer; and Shareholic for most major browsers.