The Savvy Traveler
Because Cyberspace is an image on a computer screen, sometimes it is called a "virtual" world not actually real. But travel anywhere has real risks and rewards. No matter where you go even if you don't actually leave your home to get there common sense and knowledge are your best travel companions.
The Federal Trade Commission and your state Attorney General offer this guide to help you prepare for your voyage and avoid fraud and deception en route. We hope you'll share it with your family and especially with children, so that they will be savvy travelers when they visit Cyberspace, too.
Getting the Most From Your Travel
You might visit a famous museum, catch the latest news, enter a chat room to discuss a topic that interests you, learn about parenting, search for a travel bargain, purchase a book or CD, start a part-time business, or e-mail a letter to your far-flung family in a single step.
Books, articles, friends, and people you work with can steer you to many interesting web sites. Once you're on the road, your own curiosity and interests will lead you to even more sites.
Information The Currency of Cyberspace
Information is gathered on the Internet both directly and indirectly. When you enter a chat room discussion, leave a message on a bulletin board, register with a commercial site, enter a contest, or order a product, you directly and knowingly send information into Cyberspace. Often, a web site may require information from you as the "toll" you pay to enter.
Data also can be gathered indirectly, without your knowledge. For example, your travels around a web site can be tracked by a file called a "cookie" left on your computer's hard drive on your first visit to that site. When you revisit the site, it will open the cookie file and access the stored information so it will know how to greet you. You may even be welcomed by name. If you linger over a product or a subject that interests you, it will be noted. And soon, you may see ads on the site that look as if they've been custom tailored for you. As web sites gather information directly and indirectly, they can collect a complete data picture of you and your family. This kind of information is valuable to marketers because it helps them target their sales efforts.
Maintaining Privacy When You Travel
As anywhere, Cyberspace has its share of "snoopers" and con men. Guard your password. It's the key to your account. People who work for your service provider should never request your password. If they do, refuse the request and report the incident to your service provider immediately.
Concerns about loss of privacy are not new. But the computer's ability to gather and sort vast amounts of data and the Internet's ability to distribute it globally magnify those concerns.
To a large extent, privacy is up to you when you enter a web site. Look for a privacy statement. Sites that are most sensitive to your privacy concerns not only have privacy policies, but also display them clearly and conspicuously, offer you a choice to share your personal information or restrict its use, and explain how your information will be used.
Travel Insurance For Cyberspace
Experienced cybertravelers carry a little "travel insurance" when they enter Cyberspace. Here are some tips from the experts:
Traveling With Children
Taking the kids on a trip into Cyberspace can be a rewarding experience for you as well as your children. Before embarking on your trip, you should know that web sites collect a significant amount of personal information from children, such as the child's name, postal and e-mail address, and favorite activities and products. This information can be collected by asking children to register with the site, join a kids' club, enter a contest or complete a questionnaire online.
Children learn to use computers quickly, but because they lack life experience, they can reveal information you might not wish to share. That's one reason children should be supervised when they venture into Cyberspace. Here are some precautions you may want to take:
Rules of the "Virtual" Road
Children act more responsibly when they know the rules. That's why you may find the idea of a parent-child contract helpful when it comes to using the Web. Here are some rules of the "virtual" road, along with a sample Cyberspace Passport for children who accept the rules. You and your children may want to develop others.
Cyberspeak Learning the Language
You don't have to be a computer expert to book a trip into Cyberspace, but it certainly helps to know a few words of cyber-speak. Before long, you'll sound like a native and get around like an experienced traveler.
BOOKMARK an online function that lets you access your favorite web sites quickly.
BULLETIN BOARD/NEWSGROUP places to leave an electronic message or share news that anyone can read and respond to. Marketers or others can get your e-mail address from bulletin boards and newsgroups.
CHAT ROOM a place for people to converse online by typing messages to each other. (Once you're in a chat room, others can contact you by e-mail. Some online services monitor their chat rooms and encourage children to report offensive chatter. Some allow parents to deny access to chat rooms altogether.)
CHATTING a way for a group of people to converse online in real-time by typing messages to each other.
COOKIE when you visit a site, a notation may be fed to a file " known as a "cookie" in your computer for future reference. If you revisit the site, the "cookie" file allows the web site to identify you as a "return" guest and offer you products tailored to your interests or tastes. You can set your online preferences to limit or let you know about "cookies" that a web site places on your computer.
DOWNLOAD the transfer of files or software from a remote computer to your computer.
FILTER software you can buy that lets you block access to web sites and content that you may find unsuitable.
INTERNET the universal network that allows computers to talk to other computers in words, text, graphics, and sound, anywhere in the world.
ISP (Internet Service Provider) a service that allows you to connect to the Internet. When you sign up (it takes special software and a modem), you'll be asked to enter a screen name, a secret password and your credit card number. Usually, online charges are billed to your credit card. Most providers allow you to review your monthly expenses online instead of sending you a separate itemized bill. If you note unexpected charges from your ISP, call for an explanation. If you're not satisfied with the explanation, or think you may be the victim of fraud, write a letter to your credit card company and your state Attorney General.
JUNK E-MAIL unsolicited commercial e-mail; also known as "spam." Usually junk e-mail doesn't contain the recipient's address on the "To" line. Instead, the addressee is a made-up name, such as "firstname.lastname@example.org." Or the address on the "To" line is identical to the one on the "From' line.
KEYWORD a word you enter into a search engine to begin the search for specific information or web sites.
LINKS highlighted words on a web site that allow you to connect to other parts of the same web site or to other web sites.
LISTSERV an online mailing list that allows individuals or organizations to send e"mail to groups of people at one time.
ONLINE SERVICE an ISP with added information, entertainment and shopping features.
PASSWORD a personal code that you use to access your account with your ISP.
SCREEN NAME the name you call yourself when you communicate online. You may want to abbreviate your name or make up a name. Your ISP may allow you to use several screen names.
SEARCH ENGINE a function that lets you search for information and web sites. Using a search engine is like accessing the main card file in a library, only easier. A few keywords can lead you almost anywhere on the Internet. You can find search engines or a search function on many web sites.
URL (Uniform Resource Locator) the address that lets you locate a particular site. For example, http://www.ftc.gov is the URL for the Federal Trade Commission. All government URLs end in .gov. Non-profit organizations and trade associations end in .org. For example, http://www.naag.org is the URL for the National Association of Attorneys General. Commercial companies now end in .com, although additional suffixes or domains may be used as the number of businesses on the Internet grows. Other countries use different endings.
VIRUS a file maliciously planted in your computer that can damage files and disrupt your system.
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