Getting Safer Online
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I've been on the ground here in Orlando for a couple of days now attending the Forrester Marketing Forum and related council meetings.
Though much talk has been about the mediocre state of business and the challenges this economy presents to marketers, I wasn't long here before the Apple "Baby Shaker" app scandal exploded and the unseemly details of the alleged "Craigslist killer" in Boston emerged.
First, a bite from the Apple.
It was just over dinner last evening that some peers and I were applauding Apple's fiscal 2Q earnings, its second largest quarter ever, and this in the midst of a recession.
Several of us suspected that a large chunk of Apple's new revenue stream was being generated by all the various and sundry iPhone applications they were selling (over 35K and counting), although the earnings statement didn't call this out, so it's just a collective hunch.
But just about everyone at the table in this discussion had bought at least 2 or 3 Apple iPhone apps (either for the iPhone or iPod Touch).
Save, that is, for the Baby Shaker -- to whom we say good bye and good riddance. And in any case, it would be silly to allow one bad Apple app to blemish a treasure trove of new innovation.
As for Craigslist, one of my dinner companions explained how when he lived in San Francisco, he found virtually everything he needed via the site: His car, his job, his furniture.
He went on to explain that he even took out a personal ad for one of his loveless roommates (without the roommate's knowledge, mind you), and a woman responded who would later become his roommate's wife!
What happened in Boston is without question a tragedy, and one that must be dealt with with the severest of penalties.
But it seems to me the apparently easy allure of mass media headlines, hysteria and hyperbole that has compounded around this particular story should instead be capitalized on as a key teachable moment.
The risk of offline encounters, whatever their nature, which were originally generated by online communication should be informed by great caution and common sense.
Parents, educators, and peers should use moments like what happened in Boston to remind their sons, daughters, students and friends that meeting someone for real, whom they've communicated previously only online, is no trivial matter.
In the U.K., a study found that one in five teenagers has met someone face-to-face whom they first encountered on the Internet. The same study revealed teenagers freely hand out personal information to strangers.
Though young peoples' expectations of privacy may have been altered by their growing up with "digital DNA," it is their protectors' absolute obligation to be aware and informed about their children's online behaviors and usage, and to explain in great detail the measures they can take to better protect themselves.
As Craigslist own site explains, when meeting someone for the first time, there are some basic rules that can go a very long way:
If you're a parent or a guardian who would like to learn how you can help your children get smarter online and off, visit Get Safe Online to obtain useful information across a whole range of Internet safety concerns.
It's almost always easier to focus on the negative, but why not instead accentuate the positive?
Millions have used Craigslist, Apple's App Store, and an entire range of other online sites with great success and little woe.
You can and should be one of them.
Empower yourself, and more importantly, empower your young people, with the information that can give you peace of mind and quite possibly save their lives.