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The internet has become a part of our daily life. Whether you access it on a computer, or a mobile device such as a cell phone or tablet, the internet has opened doors for us. Unfortunately, there can be scary surprises behind some of those doors.

We pay a price to access this wealth of knowledge. This day and age, it’s important to remind everyone that nothing is free. If something appears to be free, you are the product.

Here’s a breakdown of how the internet works, for those of us who didn’t grow up with it. Let’s think of the internet as an amusement park. Let’s make it King’s Island. 

You, the consumer, pay for internet service.That’s your fee to get into The Kings Island Internet. You have to pay your Comcast, your Frontier, your Suddenlink first. That’s your ticket inside the park.

Once you’re in, it’s up to you where you go. But once that door is open, you have opened many other doors as well.

Every website you go to is a ride. Just like every ride has security cameras, websites do too. They can track their visitors through IP addresses. And if you want frontsies, well, you can use a token. Just provide your email! Every time you go to a site, you are giving your data. These are companies, and data is currency.

For adults, that’s fine. But when it comes to children, things can get a little murky can’t it? Especially when it comes down to their safety.

It’s back to school time and it’s so exciting for everyone, especially beaming parents. We are so proud to send our children off on their new adventure. But it’s important to remember what you post means it can be seen by everyone on the internet. It can also be tracked.

And even if you have your settings on private, everything is hackable. Everything is traceable.

For instance, I can see the exact location of everyone who visits my website. Because I pay for the space on the internet, I am allowed to see my analytics. And I own everything that is on my site. By me paying for my web address, that is like me paying rent. And everything on my website belongs to me. I pay for my space on Kings Island Internet.

But let’s say you post your things on Facebook. Or Instagram. You are then giving your information, data, and pictures of your kids to somebody else. Now they own it. When you sign up for these user agreements, you allow this.

Those “I DO NOT GIVE PERMISSION” posts on Facebook that Grandma keeps posting do not matter. 

The world has gotten smaller indeed. It is incredible and makes so many opportunities for us all. But it is a double-edged sword, and we need to be careful how much of ourselves we share.

I personally know how hard it is when you want to share all those pictures of your kids doing the hilarious cute things. I used to, as a matter of fact. These days, I have to be more careful. I don’t even have a Facebook. And it’s not just people with a global audience who should be taking this into account.

Because once it’s on the internet, it has the ability to go global. That means everyone in the world can know where your child is. Every child predator you ever tried to make sure didn’t live close to you — now they have access to your child at all times, on the world wide web. They can even download photos from Facebook.

Do you want everyone knowing where your child goes to school? Do you want every person to know your child’s schedule? Drop off time? What about their activities and interests? Because that’s what you’re doing. 

You’re giving precious data about minors away to a business. And schools utilizing Facebook should be looked at carefully. It’s a safety issue for students. 

The armed forces have always benefited from the data of children with the army being able to access public school information after all. It makes me nervous that the schools want us to rely on Facebook so much when Facebook isn’t the safest place. 

So think before you post. And it’s important to remember that every app you sign up for, every email, that’s your data you are giving to a company. So proceed with caution and thought.

Because it doesn’t matter how big your audience is. Everyone’s watching. 

Tips for keeping children safe online

** West Virginia Watch is a nonprofit media source. Articles are shared under creative commons license. Please visit https://westvirginiawatch.com/ for more independent Mountain State news coverage.

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