The Internet-Holy Grail or Pandora’s Box


“War” Sang Edwin Starr in 1969 in his song of the same name. Many of you won’t remember it but I can assure you he did. “What is it good for?” He then enquired. This was a rhetorical question because he immediately answers it by telling us War is good for absolutely nothing. He was clearly enthusiastic on the subject because he went on to repeat it ad nausea. But, dear Reader, he was wrong. Certainly in the U.K. war was the catalyst for the invention of the first real, working stored program computer at Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire. The computer was called Colossus, was designed to crack the German Enigma codes and could have been the basis of a peacetime U.K. computer industry if Churchill hadn’t ordered the project kept totally secret.

There was also a more tenuous military connection which ultimately led to another invention. It has had an enormous and profound effect on us today. There was a military project in the late 60’s and 70’s called Arpanet (Bet some of you are thinking of the Terminator films about now?). It used packet switching and the TCP/IP protocol. These later became the foundations of the internet.

So, give or take the invention of the World wide web at Cern (Invented by a Brit!!!) the internet was born. In answer to your question Mr Starr, war and military necessity was very good for the progress of computers and gave us the internet. That’s sorted him out!

But now on to the main course of this post, if you’ll pardon the food analogy. I like food, a lot. Here’s the thing. Is the internet the titular Holy Grail, or is it a Pandora’s box which, when opened released evil into the world?

There is no doubt that the Net is a good workhorse. Given a choice of interacting with a machine over the phone, talking to a human being or doing something for myself over the internet I will choose the latter. It almost makes me sad that some do not have the confidence or ability to do this. Many fear the Net because of the stories of East European mafia types stealing your life if you so much as look at a keyboard.

You can avoid the internet completely, my sister does. However as time goes on she does miss out. She complains that the family seem to leave her out of their lives but, via social media, she could gorge on family posts till she’s sick of the sight of us. Whoops there’s the food thing again and I’ve only just eaten breakfast.

In the earliest days of home computing there were people to whom anything technical was an anathema. It was called technofear. We now have another thing which does not, as far as I know have a name. Let’s call it netfear. Older people, such as myself usually suffer from this, yet when properly advised they go on to be total Net heads.Unfortunately my generation will always have a share of those who don’t want to but into the information age. My in-laws have basic mobiles (Cell phones) with no connectivity. Fortunately we were the last, children are taught from scratch now and know how to use the Net from a very early age.

Most modern devices are well able to provide protection against technical threats, malware and viruses but let’s go back to those Mafia types. They are real and they can do all kinds of nasty things to you and your life. It is fine to be au fait with the Net but you DO have to be aware of the dangers. The emphasis of this site is Parenting and Kids especially need to  have a kindly eye cast over their network activity. This is the Pandora’s box argument. Radical terrorists, Scammers and criminals in general know how to use the net. On Facebook one of the most common scams is the art of ClickBait. An emotive picture is posted inviting you to share, like or say Amen. You are accused of being heartless if you ignore the post. In the simplest version of this scam, the names of those who respond are then sold on to advertisers or others who wish to gather personal details.

In another example,my grandson pays  Call Of Duty. It has an age limit of 16. He is only 7. I have reservations about him even playing the game but polite observations about his suitability are met with a ‘Mind your own business’ look and a comment that it ‘Keeps him quiet.’ This is not the main problem though. During a multiplayer game you can hear comments over the connection from other players. If he was wearing  a microphone and earphones he could quite happily talk to them if unsupervised. Who knows who these people are but in his somewhat limited understanding they are ‘Friends’ could one be a Pedophile grooming or as terrorist Radicalizing.

This is scary stuff but there are ways to spot things like this. I am a cynical person and know that you don’t get anything for nothing. If it seems to good to be true it usually is. I would not only look a gift Horse in the mouth I would check for wooden legs and ask for a test gallop. As for the kids, pull them off the computer or console every now and again and talk to them about what they have been up to lately. Make it lighthearted.

In general the internet is divided into light and dark. There are criminals out there but I have used it extensively for years and have never really had any dire experiences. If it looks a bit Dodgy (English for not good!) I will navigate away. Common sense plays a large part. if someone seems to have scammed your Facebook page change your password immediately. It does the trick, I have done it.

I get emails every day offering some fantastic deal or highlighting a problem which needs my attention They ask you to click a link. These are usually a way to get you onto a site where you will be asked for a username and password for your bank etc. It is called Phishing. Delete anything suspicious, your bank will write to you if they need to talk to you that badly.

Most of us are nice people and I know you may be aware of these things but even I get complacent so it doesn’t hurt to remind ourselves every now and again. keep yourself up to date with the latest nasties out there. Make sure you have up to date Malware and Virus software

So, to sum up, yes the internet is full of wonderful stuff and can be used for education, leisure, shopping, communications and families. Still there is a responsibility inherent in your use of the net to be on your guard. The Holy Grail can quickly turn into the opening of Pandora’s box.

Is it lunchtime yet?