Be careful online, it can still be a scary place

The Internet is a great place. You can find almost anything you would ever need to know and that information is at your fingertips within seconds. Unfortunately, there are also some terrible aspects of the Internet, one of which we ran a story about over the weekend.

The crime brief ran on our Region front Sunday and was up on our Web site, TheTimesNews.com, by Saturday afternoon. The story involved a 59-year-old Raleigh man who was arrested and charged with sex offenses after he was found by police in a car with a 14-year-old Burlington girl that he met on the Internet. Authorities determined that the man was allegedly communicating with the girl in an online chat room, and then he drove from Raleigh to meet her in person.

Sadly, these kind of horrible crimes take place every day and we need to be more aware. I wouldn’t dare place any sort of blame during this difficult time, but in general, parents need to maintain caution when allowing their children to use the Internet.

I can remember my mother and father diligently checking in on me when I was a kid using the Internet. Back then it was the first year of AOL dialup, but I was still limited as to how long I could be on the computer and they constantly came in to see what I was doing on the Web. Most of the time, I was looking at sports Web sites and chatting with friends from school in chatrooms or on AOL instant messenger. Today’s children do the same thing.

As the Internet continues to grow in popularity and becomes more accessible, by lap top, Wi-Fi and even smart phone, we tend to focus on the positives and forget about the frightening things that occur online.

It is no surprise to anyone that there are bad people in the world and those same people are also online. It’s easier for these predators to hide online, too by creating anonymous profiles. This sort of behavior is disgusting and alarming. Luckily, local, state and federal law enforcement have stepped up their efforts to prevent these crimes from occurring.

I certainly don’t want to scare anyone away from using the Internet or encourage parents to deny Internet access to their children, I just simply ask that you take caution. Even though we use the Internet more today we should not let our guard down. It is even more important to monitor what you and your children do online as Global Positioning System applications continue to increase in popularity. There are all sorts of social networking sites out there designed for you to access on your mobile phone and then people can follow where you are based on your GPS location.

Sites like Twitter have launched a feature that lets people following you on the site know where you are at all times. So, if you’re asleep in your apartment or grocery shopping down the street, it shares that information. The Web site Foursquare operates completely on the GPS concept, encouraging you and your friends to explore new places and follow each other on the Web. In order to see people’s GPS locations on these sites you do need to accept people’s friendship requests, but many people don’t have much of a screening process when reviewing these requests. This is just asking for trouble if you ask me, but thousands, if not more, are using these features.

The bottom line is that we don’t know who is out there on the Internet, so we need to be protective while still accessing the good that the Internet offers us.

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