Online Behaviors To Watch For, Part 1


Are you the same person online as you are off? Do your kids behave the same way with people they meet on the internet as they would 'in real life'? I ask because the relative anonymity of the internet makes it much easier for a person to let a side of themselves show that they would ordinarily hide. Think about it; aren't you more willing to share certain photos or links on your Facebook page than you would in an inter-office email? Do you talk about things in an online community that you wouldn't around the water cooler? Is it easier for you to express certain opinions behind a screen name and a computer screen than at a cocktail party? My bet is yes on all three. If it isn't for you, it might be for your kids. While this isn't necessarily a bad thing, we do still need to exercise certain cautions. Here are some people to look out for, as well as tips to keep yourself and others safe.

Spammers. Facebook, emails and instant messengers are great ways to connect with people from all over the world. It's a lot of fun to share photos, post funny links and read blog posts about a lot of fascinating things. However, some people take advantage of this and send links and message attachments that can harm your computer or post things in your name that you would never even think of. For instance, a Trojan Horse virus that came on a picture someone sent me stole both my and my nephew's passwords and sent out porn to over 200 people! What's more, the parental controls on my nephew's account were such that he wouldn't have been able to view such things, much less send them!

The person who sent me the picture didn't mean any harm, but many do. Cases of identity theft often involve a virus either tricking people into entering personal information or directly stealing it from their hard drive. I don't have to tell you how devastating this can be.

Scammers. Identity theft, while serious, isn't the only kind of scam out there. There are quite a few people who will use 'sob stories' to elicit sympathy and even money from unsuspecting people. For instance, someone might come onto a forum and talk about needing medical treatment or a pending foreclosure. Some of the stories are true, but others are an online version of Münchausen syndrome-deliberately faking a situation to get sympathy from others. For people who send money or put a large amount of emotional energy into caring for others, this can be devastating. 

I will continue this discussion in another post.

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