FLOW Foundation promotes safer Internet use

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

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MORE than 300 high schools participated in the local observations of Safer Internet, led by the FLOW Foundation, yesterday under the international theme, 'Create, Connect and Share Respect — A safer Internet starts with you'.

The half-day youth seminar held at Merl Grove High School featured a mix of local 'social media influencers' and technical experts zoned in on cyber security, online reputation management, threats to personal safety and the disturbing, yet growing trend of cyberbullying among Jamaican youth.

Dr Moniphia Hewling, head of the local Cyber Incident Response Team, an arm of the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology, shared some eye-opening facts about many devices and online applications that could pose threats to privacy and even facilitate identity theft for less savvy Internet users. “Many of us simply do not take enough time to safeguard our privacy online. Many of us give permission to apps without thinking and this could lead to financial loss or even personal harm. As the technology evolve, we must adapt, especially as it relates to our personal security,” Hewling stated.

Chalanie Stiebel, clinical and development psychologist, helped to demystify the growing trend of cyber bullying while encouraging the students to stand up to cyber bullies. “Cyber bullying can often go unnoticed to those who are in place to protect our youth. Don't be afraid to use the safety features on the various social media platforms to guard your well-being,” Stiebel said.

Inspector Stacey-Ann Powell from the Communications, Forensics and Cybercrime Division of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) also cautioned the students about those seeking to abuse online access. “At the JCF, we are interested in any opportunity that allows us to inform the public about the growing threat of cyber criminals, especially because there are several persons who are not technologically savvy and as such are easy victims for these online predators who often are anonymous,” Powell warned.

Nicole McLaren-Campbell, education and entrepreneur, further encouraged the students to safeguard their reputations from a tender age. McLaren-Campbell, who specialises in preparing students for admission to US-based colleges, cautioned that an “innocent post can affect the direction your life will take, sometimes costing you valuable opportunities like being admitted to the college of your choice”.

Other highlights included an interaction session with self-made social media celebrity Dutty-Berry and Captain ICAN — a robotic ambassador for the Optimist Club now embarking on an anti-bullying campaign.

Stephen Price, managing director of FLOW, in addressing the students, stressed his company's sense of duty to provide responsible guidance on the use of the Internet. “Less than 50 per cent of Jamaican households have an Internet connection so lots more needs to be done to ensure that each Jamaican has an equal opportunity to access the Internet and enjoy its benefits,” Price stated.

Since 2004, Safer Internet Day has been observed in approximately 130 countries worldwide.

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