Libraries and the Internet Toolkit

Safety & Responsibility

Users of all ages must be vigilant against criminals and scams when using the Internet. For young people, understanding the differences between friends and strangers online is important, as well as knowing when to report cyberbullying. Young people and adults alike should safeguard their personal information to avoid identity theft, and stay alert for e-mail scams that request personal or financial information. The discussion below provides advice for all ages in maintaining safety and practicing responsibility when using the Internet.
For children ten years of age and under, use of the Internet should be supervised, and they should be guided in using age-appropriate portals, search engines and applications. Children should be taught to give personal information only after receiving permission from a parent or teacher, and they should respond to personal contacts with the same restrictions. Social networking can be done in limited ways with the use of privacy settings. CIPA (see Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) Legal FAQ requires the installation and use of filters on computers with Internet access in public libraries receiving receive E-rate discounts or LSTA grants; parents may judge for their own children whether filters or other control measures are suitable. Nonetheless, such technological controls are meant to assist, and not replace, parental and teacher judgment.
Parents, teachers and school librarians may wish to consult lessons plans and tips on Internet safety and responsibility for ideas on approaching these topics with children under ten. 
The following sites have such plans available:
Most teens live in a wired environment. They are connected to the Internet through computers and cell phones and it is part of their daily lives. Teens are knowledgeable about using the Internet safely but they do not always have the judgment needed to determine what constitutes safe behavior. Internet predators get a great deal of attention in the media, but actual threats are very rare. Teens are more likely to become victims of cyberbullying and identity theft, and often are guilty of revealing too much personal information online. 
Cyberbullying is bullying using social networking, e-mail or cell phones. Victims of cyberbullying should follow several steps to stop this behavior. These include blocking the sender from contacting, not responding to attacks and reporting the behavior to adults.
Typically, teens are not worried about identity theft because they haven’t established credit histories yet. Their actions now, however, can have a devastating effect as they get older. The problems that can occur because their personal information has been stolen can lead to financial disaster.
Teens have two identities--their online identity and their “real” identity. Because of this anonymity, teens often do not realize the potential for harm that giving out their personal information can cause. Teaching teens that information that is posted online can be easily found by scholarship juries, potential employers, etc. is an important step in helping them keep personal information private. Parents may need tips on Internet safety and responsibility and ways to effectively approach these topics with teenagers. More information can be found at the following Web sites. Net Smartz produces a free workshop that can be used with parents, educators, PTA’s, etc.
Adults utilize social networking and dating Web sites, and like young people, they must practice care in providing personal information online. The Web sites listed below give advice on this topic, such as waiting to share real names or phone numbers with others until comfortable in doing so, and using free e-mail accounts when communicating with new friends met on the Internet.
Protecting personal information is important not only for physical safety, but for financial safety as well. According to a 2006 study conducted by the Federal Trade Commission, approximately 8.3 million people were victims of identity theft in 2005.
Identify theft can result from people simply asking for personal information on places such as social networking sites, or through more elaborate methods like phishing. The OnGuard Online website defines phishing as “. . . a scam where Internet fraudsters send spam or pop-up messages to lure personal and financial information from unsuspecting victims.” This Web site offers advice on how to avoid being a victim of phishing. For example, “Don't reply to e-mail or pop-up messages that ask for personal or financial information, and don't click on links in the message.” 
Adults should also be aware of popular e-mail scams that ask for personal and financial information. These often sound legitimate, so users must stay alert and aware when responding to e-mail. Please note that phishing can occur through e-mail.  
The following site offers advice on avoiding e-mail scams, along with information about some of the more prevalent ones, including the infamous Nigerian money scam: OnGuard Online Email Scams