Archive for Thursday, May 25, 2006

Power of Web can entangle unwary

May 25, 2006

Not too long ago, many people had stacks and stack of books called encyclopedias in their homes. In fact, some people made their living selling these books door to door. These encyclopedias were sometimes prominently displayed as a symbol of stature. They contained a wealth of information that was not available anywhere else. That was until Al Gore invented something called "The Internet."

The Internet totally revolutionized our lives in ways that words cannot describe. Instead of paying hundreds of dollars for the encyclopedia, we now have about a thousand times more information for about $30 a month. That does not take into account the e-commerce that we do online now. Paying bills, purchasing items and getting loans are all at our fingertip.

If there was ever a need for information, all one has to do is get to a computer. The Internet does not discriminate as the encyclopedias did. They were only affordable to some people.

It's hard to find anyone without Internet access these days. Even if it's not available at home, all one has to do is go to the public library.

The Internet is arguably the most powerful tool we have. It's said knowledge is power and the Internet has an endless supply of that. It also can be a valuable tool to find people and things one wants to know more about. All you have to do is type in what you are looking for and you might get more than what you bargained for.

A few months ago, I got an e-mail from a high school classmate whom I had lost touch with more than 20 years ago. He had moved to Australia, and I to the United States and distance kept our friendship from continuing.

When I got the e-mail from him, it totally shocked me. I asked how he found me and he simply replied that he typed in my name in a search engine and several links came up. The first was the listing of my name in the children's ministry schedule in my church's bulletin and the next was a column I wrote for the paper. Using that he e-mailed the church and the Eudora News, and we were able to reconnect 20 years later. This would not have been possible if it was not for the net.

One of favorite things on the Internet is "Mapquest." Who would have imagined that you could get directions to any place in the country instantly?

This is a major help for the men, as now they don't have a reason to ask for directions. We can be the kind of men we were meant to be.

As wonderful a tool as it is, the Internet is also the source of some of the darkest and despicable things.

Porn is abundant and pedophiles have a heyday luring their victims via the net. The ease of use can backfire if one is not careful.

Young children are fascinated with the net because of the fun and educational things they can find online. Unfortunately where they go sometimes can be very detrimental. Not that they do it on purpose, but the fact that the net does not discriminate the user, it can lead to very inappropriate sites.

Just this past weekend, my 9-year-old daughter wanted to search for instructions for a toy she got. She asked if she could go on to the company's Web site to search for the information. This was seemingly a reasonable and safe request. For some reason, I told her what I would do it.

The toy was called "Fur-Real Friends." Not knowing the company's Web site, I searched for Fur-Real friends. To my horror, the first few links were all porn sites. Imagine if I had let my daughter do that on her own.

I know there are programs and filters that can be used to prevent things like this from happening, but the threat still exists. This powerful tool can also be the most dangerous if it's not used properly.

I liken it to fire. When used wisely, it is one of the most essentials things in life. But when it is misused, it can burn and destroy you without regard of who you are

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