Internet safety lapses say more about users than the bad hats they meet online. Bullies, perverts and scamsters lurk both in cyberspace and the real world.
So, when a potential victim willingly or carelessly exposes his or her vulnerability to a predator, it betrays more than just poor judgment.
Rather, it is a reflection of a netizen's false sense of comfort created by distance and partial anonymity. Perhaps, it also has to do with a certain mental laxity, even laziness - which is inexcusable, except among children.
Yet, many adults are cavalier about online security, according to a survey carried out by Microsoft. Despite the fact that about 12 per cent said they had been hit by phishing attacks, and 8 per cent said their professional reputation had been compromised, only four in 10 of those surveyed said they limit what strangers can see on social networks and curb the amount of personal information online.
Also, only four in 10 use a personal identification number (PIN) or password to lock their mobile device.
Take the road bully who had details of his girlfriend and parents dug up by Internet vigilantes out to harass him. They got it easily because the information was left out in the open. It could be more risky than leaving one's door unlocked because all it takes is a few keystrokes to steal personal information or to cause harm.
Children are particularly vulnerable when they have not developed self-preservation habits in real life to take into cyberspace.
They may not develop such habits if their parents demonstrate carelessness while using the Internet, for example, by not setting up filters, using anti-virus software or adjusting their privacy settings for social media.
Sadly, the age of innocence for children is shrinking as they start surfing from the age of five, in some cases. Babes in the woods, they might fall victim to experiences that might be hard to shake off later. It falls on adults to help prevent this by serving as good cyber surfing role models.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.