So you want to meet up with someone you met online… Taking the Stranger Danger discussion to the next level

By Ben Halpert, Founder Savvy Cyber Kids, an EarthLink partner

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Today’s children are considered ‘Digital Natives’ because they were literally born into a world defined by technology, but are actually “Digital Naives.” Without intervention, children completely lack an understanding of the implications of their digital actions.

We tell kids that they should NEVER meet-up with a person they met online and that someone you don’t know in real life is ALWAYS a stranger (because you can’t confirm who they really are). But, let’s face it, the internet is about making connections.

From dating sites to Craigslist and special interest chat groups, adults regularly make online connections that turn into physical world connections. At some point, children will have legitimate reasons to make these connections too. Even if that some point is when they go off to college, the adults in children’s lives need to model behavior that ensures safety in the digital world. Here are tips for staying safe when meeting and talking to unknown people online.

While you can never guarantee anything you do will keep you 100 percent safe, there are certain precautions you should consider if you really want to meet up with someone you met via tech.

  • Ask them to Facetime, use Google Hangouts, or another social media app with live chat. If they refuse or can’t for some reason, ask them to send you a selfie with something that shows the day’s date and time. If they also refuse to do this or can’t send a selfie, do not meet up with them! Ask yourself, why would they be refusing to prove who they really are?

But is this enough to keep you safe? Unfortunately not.

Woman charged in DeKalb dating app murder to face judge

The details of this story are disheartening. After they met online, they spoke on the phone and they live streamed. He verified it was really her before agreeing to meet-up in real life. And he brought someone with him for extra safety. And despite these precautions, he is now dead because he met up with a stranger he met online.

So let’s add the most important safety tip….

  • When you arrange to meet-up NEVER go alone and be sure to meet-up in a PUBLIC PLACE.
  • Tell the person that “I’m bringing along my friend (or insert name of trusted adult) too. Just giving you a heads-up! If you are as paranoid as me and you have someone coming too, they could sit together!”

If you are under the age of 18, these are not merely suggestions. You MUST bring a trusted adult with you IF this trusted adult APPROVES of the meet-up.

If any of your plans are not accepted by your “new online friend”, STOP COMMUNICATING. Time to go into BLOCK mode on your accounts for this “person.”

There is one TRUTH you need to remember. Parents, teach your children this! When meeting and talking to unknown people online, your safety and comfort should be important to them. It will be important to any good person you meet online who wants to meet up IRL.

The reality is that it’s a dangerous world out there. Even following these tips cannot guarantee your safety.

Don’t be the next headline. Talk to the trusted adults in your life, use good judgement and stay safe out there.

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Savvy Cyber Kids educates and empowers digital citizens, from parents and grandparents, to teachers and students. Sign up for their free resources to help you navigate today’s digital world with cyber ethics.


Living Better with Technology: The Internet of Things and Your Independence

By Ben Halpert, Founder Savvy Cyber Kids, an EarthLink partner

No doubt about it, we are living in the Digital Age. Innovations abound all around us and keeping up with the pace of technology can be dizzying. As a senior, you may ask yourself, ‘do I really need to keep up with technology or can I rely on what I already know?’

Research and development for technologies that are aimed specifically at the senior market are expected to be a $10 billion industry by 2020. This means that seniors have an incredible opportunity to benefit from technological advances. Innovations are dramatically transforming the experience of getting older, allowing seniors to not just age in place but to do so with a degree of empowerment and independence that no other generation has experienced. The newest technologies are not just ‘cool’ and they are more than convenient. For today’s seniors, technology has the potential to be life-changing to the degree that the very experience of being a senior is being redefined forever.

So, why is technology innovation focused on the senior community? It’s all about demographics and the rising cost of healthcare. There are now more Americans age 65 and older than at any other time in U.S. history. In 2015, almost 48 million seniors lived in the U.S and that number will grow to 56 million in the next decade. While improvements public health, nutrition and medicine contribute to this growth, senior healthcare costs represent a significantly higher share compared to other age groups. Plus, the working age population is in decline and it is predicted that one-third of all doctors in the U.S. will retire in the next decade, meaning that there will be fewer people to support the elderly financially and professionally. This calls for change in how the elderly are cared for and this is exactly where technology and the Internet of Things comes in.

Internet of things (IoT): the interconnection via the Internet of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data.

IoT describes “smart” devices that connect in the digital landscape and help monitor, alert, track and support seniors. The idea behind the innovation is that these devices will keep seniors connected and safe — and help alleviate some the stress on the professionals and caregivers supporting them.

Groceries: Ordering food and other essentials is already much easier for those with mobility issues thanks to a variety on online ordering services. Future tech enhancements might include a refrigerator or pantry monitor that automatically orders products to be delivered when they are close to running out.

Home Security: IoT security devices like live-streaming cameras and smart locks that can all be controlled from a tablet or smartphone, or remotely by a caregiver, can make living alone less intimidating for seniors who feel vulnerable due to their health or physical limitations.

Medicine Management Tools: Moving past pill cases organized for each day of the week and by time of day are apps to help with planning and to issue reminders about which medications need to taken and when, even alerting seniors and caregivers when medicines are not taken.

Fall Monitors: The most common causes of injury in people over 65 is falling and new technologies like wearable bracelets with built-in accelerometers sound an alarm or place a call to emergency services in the event of a fall.

Wearable and Implant Technology: A variety of medical sensors can track vital signs and send communications in real time. While the shared data can save a life in the event of a life-threatening medical development, it can also track movement and sleeping habits, allowing caregivers to track behavior patterns and be in tune to when a patient or loved one should be checked on.

Portable Technology: The size of machines that perform routine blood and urine tests has gotten so small that these machines can be kept at home, meaning that seniors can stay home for regular check-ups, while IoT sends the data to healthcare professionals.

Caregiver and Emergency Responder Remote Monitoring Tools: Thanks to IoT, family members and emergency responders can monitor seniors remotely. Technologies can alert caregivers each time a connected device is turned on or off, like a coffee machine or oven. This way caregivers can detect deviations in routine and can reach out as needed. Emergency responders can offer navigational assistance and can respond if someone has moved outside of their specified or protected living area. Developing technologies feature sensors within the home that connect to a cloud-based algorithm that learns the daily living patterns of the senior — like location within the home, light sources being used, bed time and awakening time. television watching, cooking, bathroom usage, leaving the home and returning and heating or air conditioning temperature and adjustments — and recognizes deviations to share with caregivers.

Smart Homes and Communities: IoT technologies can also be utilized within homes and senior communities to help caregivers provide proactive and better care to seniors, less invasively and with reduced medical costs.

No doubt, it’s a great time to be a senior. The Internet of Things will humanize the experience of aging by creating a more patient-centered and personal approach for care. At the touch of a button healthcare professionals and caregivers will be able to:

• Access a real-time analysis of a patient’s vitals, specific to the patient and their condition
• Prevent a fall or medication error
• Share information and interact with everyone in a patient’s circle of care
• Respond to a patient’s needs based on vitals

As we forge ahead into this new world, some caution prevails. New technologies must be affordable, easy to use and need to provide adequate privacy and security. With that in hand, the quality of life for seniors — who can look forward to staying in their homes longer, living independently and feeling safer because they are being watched over — is looking bright.

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Savvy Cyber Kids educates and empowers digital citizens, from parents and grandparents, to teachers and students. Sign up for their free resources to help you navigate today’s digital world with cyber ethics.