We've recently encountered a frustrating and duplicitous attack on the eSafely name. In the past couple of weeks, searches for our safe search engine search.clearch.org and eSafely itself have started turning up dozens of pages on "how to remove the eSafely virus", with fictitious claims of threats and step by step guides on how to install virus removal/PC cleaning software to eliminate said threat - software that is itself malware/spyware and typically impossible to get rid of.
Sadly, this is the double-edged sword of the internet.
To call the Internet a key resource in our daily lives would be an understatement. It has become an integral tool in how we plan, schedule, research, learn, socialize, shop, and in so many ways manage our day to day. We turn to the Web to find answers to important (and not so important) questions, to seek answers when we need guidance through difficult stages in life, and to get recommendations on products that may or may not change our lives.
In a perfect world, the people posting the content of the Web would be as well-intentioned as the people asking the questions that bring them there. However, the irony of the Internet is that the majority of content being posted (on a per volume basis) is actually useless, if not harmful and malicious.
Less savvy visitors may give credibility to these pages and avoid eSafely as a "browser hijacking virus" when in fact the search redirect is our safe search feature delivering safe search results for any search performed on your computer - something clearly stated on our website.
Even worse, some visitors may also think that there is a legitimate reason to download these malicious applications, creating a security threat where there previously wasn't one while thinking they are protecting themselves.
There is no "eSafely browser hijacking virus", and this is a great example of why we need to be careful when looking for answers on the Internet. Because most people posting content on the Web are looking out for themselves, not doing it as a public service.
Quoting PornHarms’ Facebook status -
Stats show that kids in the US are getting access to porn by age 11, many even earlier. Are you still thinking your 10 year old is too young for this conversation?
Tony Danza made the comment in response to his role in the new film “Don Jon” which explores the way access to simulated sex creates obstacles to real-life intimacy.
Early exposure to pornography can leave an unwelcome lasting impression, desensitizing the young teens and pre-teens and creating obstacles in their developing emotionally and physically healthy relationships and expressions of intimacy.
With children viewing adult content online at earlier and earlier ages, it is important that Parents are ready to engage their child in open conversations about what they are seeing online, how it makes them feel, and where it deviates from “real life” expectations.
Let’s face it, we’re all internet addicts these days. In some recently shared statistics on how teens are using social media, it was reported that the average teen (age 8-18) spends some 10 hours and 45 minutes online each day!
To put this into perspective, the average teen is “plugged in” to the Internet more on a daily basis than I slept on any two nights this week, combined. How is this possible?
Of course we have the mobile web, ipads/tablets, and personal notebooks to thank for making social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, etc.), Email, and other web resources readily available on a continuous basis.
The important consideration then, is this - if our children are spending such a considerable amount of their time active on the Web, who is ensuring that the content that they are accessing is actually something we’d want them to see?
While it is obviously the responsibility of every parent to ensure a nurturing environment that provides their children with the tools and knowledge they need to make smart decisions, and this is no less so when it comes to educating our children about how to be safe online, there is also a significant onus of responsibility that resides with the site owners who are promoting their services (whether it be social media or otherwise) to youthful visitors.
Let’s take Facebook as an example - while it has a usage policy requiring users to be aged 13 or older, there are purportedly some 5 million users on Facebook who are under the age of 10! As sites like Facebook continue to cultivate a younger and younger generation of users, they must implicitly accept the associated increase in responsibility to cultivate the content that such users would have access to through their services.
While Facebook has a series of content reporting mechanisms in place, effectively passing the buck on to its users to report content that has been uploaded that conflicts with Facebook’s content policy, little is done proactively to manage what type of content users are being exposed to.
This may be ok for adult users, but how can we consider it acceptable that Facebook is asking its 5 million + underage users to report on content that in no way shape or form should be presented before their eyes?
Facebook’s recently announced cyberbullying prevention mechanism is equally passive and relies on the user to report against inappropriate or harassing behaviour.
Youtube takes a slightly better position, by making users confirm that they are 18 or older before proceeding to view content tagged as mature content, and having an enforceable safe mode. However both measures are easily bypassed and can be disabled whether accidentally or otherwise.
Wikipedia, the world’s largest collaborative information sharing project has directly decided not to implement any sort of safety option for users to opt-in to, despite a large amount of readily available adult content hosted on their servers.
So at the end of the day it looks like it really is up to parents to ensure that their children have the appropriate tools and knowledge to be able to safely navigate the Web, since even the owners of some of the most used web resources are providing what can be called, at best, partial solutions to protect their young users.
Kids have enough on their plate that they shouldn’t need to worry about what they may encounter on supposedly child-safe Web sites. That is why it is important to consider solutions that provide features offering enhanced protection for social networking for kids, providing tools to prevent cyberbullying and prevent exposure to adult images across Facebook, Youtube, Wikipedia, Web Search, and other common web services.