MonthMay 2012

Internetizens

Children are citizens of the internet. Adults are merely tourists.

I question every time I read about some valiant efforts adults are making to think of the children when it comes to the internet.

Children are citizens of the internet. They are growing up with it as a part of their lives. They were not introduced to it late into their teens, adulthood or in their senior years. The internet is as much a part of their lives as the television or radio was to the lives of older generations.

Children are aware of the privacy implications of sharing things on social networks. This doesn’t mean children don’t need to be made aware of the dangers of online predators or cyber bullying. However, as savvy as the normal parent my be, children are going to become more fluent in the language of the internet as time goes on.

They have grown up with it and have an understand which starts at an early age. Even if your children aren’t allowed to browse the web, they likely enjoy the benefits of Netflix, Hulu, iTunes and other providers of entertainment.

I am a child of a time before home video game consoles. When I was younger, you had to visit an arcade to play games at the expense of piles of jingling quarters.

When video games came out, I was still quite young and I grew up with them so I had a clear understanding and appreciation for them. I spoke their language and they spoke to me. I spent many, many hours playing and perfecting my abilities.

I understood how they had to be connected to a TV, how to troubleshoot them when problems arose. I understood how to control them and how to play the games.

There was a time before television, and especially color television was in homes across the country. There was a time before the radio. There were always times before technologies we take for granted today.

When the television was delivered and setup, there was a learning curve to understanding how to get the set connected and working. There was a skill set involved in figuring out why it wasn’t working and what could be done to make it work.

Each technology has its own language which must be learned and mastered.

How to spot a scam

With Skype allowing calls to outside lines, scammers can call anyone they want from anywhere they want for pennies and attempt to scam people out of their hard-earned money. Everyone wants to win big money and prizes but there are certain things to look for when you think you’re being scammed.

What contest did you win?

The caller will say you’ve won a contest. What contest exactly? That’s where the deception begins.

The caller will give a vague answer such as “it was a drawing in a big retailer like Best Buy or Kmart” or something like “it was a sweepstakes in your area.” The answer is always very vague.

If you had won something, the caller would identify the contest and who was hosting it. For example, Tigerdirect holds giveaways for computer equipment. Upon winning, someone from Tigerdirect would call, identify themselves and say what you had won.

Are you eligible?

The caller will try to talk to anyone who will pickup the phone. If the caller at any point tells you you’ve not eligible to win a prize due to location, age or any other reason, this is a scam.

If you had won, the caller would have already checked your eligibility. The company holding a giveaway would not waste time calling someone to give them a prize they could not win. If you’re not eligible to win, the caller would not ask for another person in the house who did meet the requirement. For example, if you had to be 25 or older to win, the caller would not speak to someone under 25 because they are ineligible to win.

Pick your prize from this great list!

If you won a prize, the caller would already know what prize you won and be calling to ask you to claim it. The caller would never give you a list of prizes. For instance, if the caller says you’ve won either:

  • A New Car
  • $25,000 Cash
  • 32″ LCD TV
  • A Cruise
    You are being scammed.

If you had won, the caller would be notifying you of the exact prize you won and making arrangements to verify your identity, and information you submitted when entering the contest. You will never be offered a choice of prizes.

Please go here to claim your prize.

If you caller is asking you to go to a hotel to claim your prize, you are being scammed.
If the caller says anything about a presentation or 60 or more minutes, you are being scammed.
If the caller cannot give details such as parking arrangements or specific directions to the venue they want you to go to, you are being scammed.

If you had actually won a contest, the prize would come to you. You will not need to meet them at a hotel in a city far away from where their caller ID claims they are. If on the off-chance you do need to meet them somewhere, it would be an official office, not a hotel. If you did need to go there, they would offer you directions and details. If the caller can’t tell you how the parking is at the venue they’re asking you to go to, the caller is not there and you don’t know who or what is waiting there for you.

Use your head

The best way to avoid being scammed is to use your head. We all want to believe we’ve won thousands of dollars, new cars and fabulous vacations but if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.

If you think you’re being scammed follow a couple of simple rules.

  • Do not give any personal information.
  • Ask detailed questions.
  • Ask for a number to call the person back, then try it.
  • Call the number you’re being called from after the call or from another phone.
  • Be smart, if you think you’re getting scammed, or have already given out information, collect as much as you can and contact your local law enforcement.
  • If it’s a company repeatedly calling you, contact the Better Business Bureau.

Mysteries Within

Upgrade. Buy something new. There’s a better one. There’s a newer one. There’s something slightly better out there that you could own.

Stop using Last Year’s Model. Line up for the new model!

Read the Self Repair Manifesto and get one of your own.

Ifixit Manifesto

The Manifesto

Stop throwing away something perfectly good with a small problem. Stop giving up on something that can be easily repaired. Stop buying something completely new because of a small issue.

Reading Stephen Hackett’s turning screws resonated with me. He writes,

But there’s something about having a screwdriver in hand that I just can’t get over.
I don’t think I ever will.

Repair work is stressful. There’s no doubt. Every time I unscrew a case and crack it open there is a mystery waiting inside.

The stories accompanying the mysteries are usually as good as the mysteries itself. Mysteries like I found in Bartending: Memoirs of an Apple Genius which chronicled Mr. Hackett’s experiences working as a pre-iPhone Apple Genius. My favorite story ended with,

I guess the moral of his story is that you should always check whether you’re peeing in a bathroom or on an open MacBook.

Whether it be a laptop, desktop, gaming console or mp3 player there is mystery hidden beneath its plastic and metal shell.

I have no idea what I am going to find when I get inside of it. Whether I am repairing something at work for a customer, or repairing a device I own the mystery is always there.

I enjoy repairing things. I enjoy getting inside something and figuring out why it doesn’t work. I like to repair technology and nurse it back to health. I like to take old discarded things and make them new and useful again.

I enjoy the mystery and the accompanying stories.

Justin Bieber Wants to Be Friends With You: Stranger Danger in the 21st Century

[Scared by Capture Queen ™](http://www.flickr.com/photos/uaeincredible/217849066/in/photostream/)

As I was reading Ars Technica this morning, I came across two stories that disturbed me. How pedophiles use Craigslist and sextortion over Facebook and it scares me. I don’t mean to single these two sites out. Nor are they the only places where danger can lurk on the internet. There is danger online as well as off. Just as children of the 80’s were taught about stranger danger, children of the 00’s need to be educated about online danger.

Telephones for the 21st Century

The internet is first and foremost a communications medium. We use it to talk to our friends. We use it to plan events. We use it to buy goods and services. We use it to find our way from point A to point B. We use it to get messages, check our bank accounts and get the news.

The internet has become as much as part of life as the television or the radio. This is why it scares me because so many people are ignorant to it and its dangers.

Before I go any further, I am not trying to say there is stranger danger lurking behind every corner. There are not pedophiles and rapists behind every sign post and in every dark alley.

But they do exist. Can you go through your entire life without being mugged or assaulted? Absolutely, you can. But all it takes is one bad decision to lead you to other bad decisions to end up somewhere you don’t want to be.

Bad choices come in sets

For instance, let’s take the guy extorting pictures of young girls through Facebook. The choice was made to talk to him. This is not a bad choice at the beginning. If we never talked to new people, we’d never make any new friends.

The bad choices started when the girls started messaging, which again, can be innocent enough. Sexuality and curiosity are a part of everyone’s lives. Asking questions and talking, again, is not in itself harmful.

Should they have talked to a stranger over the internet about it? Maybe, maybe not? The decision-making process could have gotten started for any number of reasons.

Once the conversations were in the hands of the extortionist, then the bad choices began. The girls wanted to keep their dignity and not be humiliated and not get in trouble.

Misery loves company

To avoid this, they made bad choices. They took photos of themselves (bad choice but if kept private or immediately deleted not damaging), they sent the photos (even worse choice because once something is out in the digital world, it never truly goes away) and they sent naked photos (of course, this is the worst choice).

Now, there are naked photos outside the control of those who sent them. They are out in the world. Maybe only on the hard drive or email account/messaging account of the recipient. Maybe he sent them to friends or posted them elsewhere. Once those photos left their phones, they are out of their control.

Once it’s out there, you can’t take it back

What you say online, stays online. There is no taking it back. Once something is created and sent out into the world, it can be duplicated countless times. It never really disappears.

Google is caching millions of pages and files per day for searching. The Wayback Machine is a living digital archive of the internet. The Library of Congress is going to archive every tweet sent using Twitter. These are just a few examples of archiving efforts going on in various forms to capture and store the billions of messages and files created everyday.

Ignorance is no longer bliss

My fear in all of this is because of my job I work with people and technology every day. I work with people who don’t get computers or don’t use the internet. This isn’t something they feel the need to know anything about or be able to use beyond the scope of their job.

This scares me because these are the people with children at home relying on them to help navigate the digital landscape. There are real dangers online just as there are in the physical world.

Just as a child can be taken from a shopping mall, they can be lured to a meeting with a friend online. Parents owe it to themselves to be able to teach their children how to spot danger and what to do about it.

If you don’t know how or where to start, ask your computer guy or gal. Turn to the person you go to for advice on what to buy or how to fix something. They may not be well-versed in the dangers of the online world but they can offer a few tips and send you in the right direction which is what I hope to do.

How to start

It is not enough to ban children from the internet. The internet is at home, on mobile phones and digital devices. It’s at friend’s houses and at school. It’s in community centers and public libraries.

It is not enough to ban or block usage, children will find a way around blocks or bans. Remember, they are most likely far more savvy than you are. They need to be educated about the dangers online.

Protect Kids is a great starting point. There is tons of information about internet dangers, safety rules and tools, social networking tips and reporting cyber crime. It’s a good starting point if you need to educate yourself or know someone who needs to educate their kids.

Enough is another fantastic resource for education about dangers online. I recommend everyone to take the short three question quiz. I got 3/3 correct but the answers may surprise you.

At the end of the quiz there is a pledge to sign recognizing that:

  1. Kids have free and easy access to pornography, either intentionally or accidentally;
  2. Predators and cyberbullies have easy and anonymous access to vulnerable kids;
  3. Kids are engaging in risky behavior via computers, cell phones, gaming systems and social networks; and
  4. Adults are often uninformed, ill-equipped and overwhelmed about how to deal with Internet dangers.

How well did you do?

Take some time to explore the site and think about the quiz and the pledge. Talk to your children about the dangers online and have them take the youth pledge.

Most importantly, make sure they know they can always come to you for anything. I know kids don’t always turn to their parents, even when they should. I sure didn’t all the time growing up.

But make sure your kids know they can come to you with things and they won’t get in trouble.

If the girls in the sextortion story had come to their parents, all of this could have been avoided. Did their parents do a great job raising them? Yes, they most likely did. Education can only take you so far. The rest is in the hands of your children to make those good decisions.

Kids are going to make mistakes. I did growing up. So did my parents and their parents and I know my kids will when I have them one day. Everyone makes mistakes, especially growing up. Help educate your children so they’re mistakes stay small and don’t turn into dangerous mistakes.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me and I will do my best to help or point you in the right direction.

Photo courtesy of Capture Queen.