Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Recent tragedy with school principal in DC area highlights multiple Internet safety concerns

The slaying of a popular middle school principal (Brian Betts) in the Washington DC school system on April 14 by someone he had admitted into his Maryland home reiterates another basic “people skills” issue with Internet safety. There is a comprehensive story (May 5 Metro) in the Washington Post by David Nakamura and Paul Schwartzman about the dangers of "cybersocializing" here on the Post's "Breaking News Blog"; that story links to other Post stories on the detailed police facts of the case.

The general spin is this: Be careful with meeting people in chat rooms (phone or Internet), and especially with “friends” on social networking sites. It’s not possible to know 1000 friends well, and to determine if each and every one of them is trustworthy. Property insurance companies have recently noted a concern over this issue (especially when people announce their plans or movements on social media or display unusual items of personal wealth in the media), as noted in a posting on my “BillBoushka” blog on April 20, 2010.

Chat rooms have been known to provide another danger: being set up by police for illegal activities. Just consider Chris Hansen’s somewhat notorious Dateline series a couple years ago.

Then you consider the recent comments by a middle school principal in New Jersey (discussed on my main blog April 29), young teens are not mature enough to deal with the teasing and taunts that occur online, nor are they mature enough to understand the risks of unsupervised Internet use. Being online is like driving a car. It requires some training and practice.

Some of these dangers existed in the physical world long before the Internet. Women and gay men have always borne a certain risk in allowing “strangers” into their homes, and in the old days marriage and family tended to provide a measure of security. Call social security a pun if you like.

Update: May 6

Check the ABC "Good Morning America" story by Neal Karlinsky, Shade Miller, and Lee Ferran: :"Craigslist Diamond Murder: How to Protect Yourself: Jim Sanders, 43, Was Killed in Home Invasion After Listing a Diamond Ring on Craigslist", link here.  This happened in Tacoma, WA.  However remember the series of slayings and assaults by a supposed medical student in Massachusetts and Rhode Island last year, also associated with Craigslist, some of whose ad services have become controversial with law enforcement. On the other hand, much or most of the business is perfectly legitimate and safe.

No comments: