national internet safety month connecticut op-ed 062215

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National Internet Safety Month Connecticut Op-ed 062215


Observing National Internet Safety MonthBy John Emra

June is National Internet Safety Month. What better time to pay close attention to our online habits, and commit ourselves to creating a safer digital environment for children and adults.

The officially designated month was established in 2005 when the U.S. Senate passed a resolution to raise awareness about the countrys need for digital safety education especially among children and teens.

In 2005, Internet connections were slower. Cell phones werent quite as smart. Apps and social media were not yet part of our lives and routines.

A lot has changed. Now were sharing pictures and stories on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and Vine. Were on Pinterest, Tumblr, and Google Plus. Were banking and managing our daily lives online. Our kids are downloading games to play with their online friends while they pass the time. And weve gone beyond traditional text messaging, in favor of video-sharing and new communication apps like Kik and WhatsApp.

With the explosive growth in the use of social media, and the dramatic rise in the number of people and teens with smartphones, paying attention to Internet safety is now more important than ever before.

For more than five years, AT&Ts national It Can Wait campaign has aimed to convince drivers to stop texting while driving. But with the proliferation of smartphones and social media, texting is just part of the problem.

A recently released study commissioned by AT&T showed more than 60 percent of American drivers admit to using their smartphones while driving, and around 30 percent admitted to surfing the Web for news behind the wheel. Even more drivers said they regularly check their social media while driving, and some even admitted to taking selfies and video chatting while their cars were in motion.

With so much out there, new risks are popping up every day. So what can we do to make sure we are protecting our kids and ourselves?

First, put your phone away while driving. The smartphone has created a constant connection between its users and the rest of the world, and that connectivity can be difficult to resist even for a moment. But when youre behind the wheel, please dont text. And please dont check your email or update your Facebook profile, either. There is no message or photo more important than human life. It can wait.

Also, think about how you use the Internet. The websites you visit and the apps you use are the digital version of the restaurants, stores or other places you may frequent in your real life. Make sure theyre trustworthy before providing any personal or financial information.

Finally, connect with your fellow users about Internet safety. Talk with your family, friends, and colleagues about how theyre using the Web. Brainstorm ideas about how your home, office, or classroom can become a safer digital environment.

The rapid evolution of the digital world has solved countless problems and made our lives easier and more connected than ever before. The Internet is a truly phenomenal resource that has made the world better in so many ways. Lets commit now, during Internet Safety Month, to take action and do what each of us can to create an environment where everyone can be safe and secure online.

John Emra is a father of two children, and President of AT&T Connecticut.


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