(Rory, shown here on the right at his mother and stepfather's wedding)
(It’s unusual in any field to get fan mail but when you receive it from a teen you’ve never met, it’s highly flattering. Rory contacted me after reading my blog to find out how you become an Internet Safety Advocate and to learn more about Symantec. I’ve invited Rory to guest blog and tell us a bit about his online life from a teen’s point of view.)
Rory: My name is Rory! I’m 13 years old and I live in Wales. I’m in year 9 now and I attend High School in Colwyn Bay.
My favorite subjects are Art, I.C.T. (Ed. “computer science” to us Yanks) and English. I have one dog that is 5 years old. He is called Louis (also spelled as Louie!) In my spare time, I like to go on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. And I also like to go on YouTube. I also like to play on my DSI XL, Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii ,etc.
In my neighborhood there are many shops nearby (my favorite are the computer shops.) In the summer our town is very popular because there is a beach close by. There is a theatre where I have performed for the show that my performing arts school organized. The theatre is very popular at Christmas time when they put on a special show. My family and I normally go to see it on Christmas Eve.
I don’t speak much Welsh but we have about 3 lessons of Welsh a week in school as do most other high school kids in Wales!
(Marian) Q: I understand you really enjoy the Internet and technology. How did you first begin using computers?
(Rory) A: I first started using the Internet and computers in my primary school when they had purchased loads of laptops and desktop PCs. When we first used them in one of our lessons I really enjoyed using them. We used the laptops in many lessons and we used a BBC website where you can find interactive activities, quizzes and much more. It’s called BBC Bitesize.
Then my mum purchased a computer for me one Christmas and I have been using them since then and I’ve learned so much more! We have a fairly fast broadband connection running about 6mbps. That’s pretty very fast for Wales. (We get 6mbps but most of Wales is capable of 8mbps, with some areas managing as much as 20mbps.)
In Wales, like elsewhere in the Western world, technology is used every day in most jobs (mainly laptops, smart phones like Blackberries, and e-mail). Also, it is required for most school homework nowadays, as I suppose most of you parents know. Even though Wales is sophisticated in its use of technology I still see a lot of PCs without any Internet protection. Naturally, I recommend Norton.
Q: Do your parents share your interest and also enjoy using computers and the Internet? Do they give you rules about using the Internet?
A: My step-dad likes computers too, but at the moments I am teaching my mum and grand-father how to use the computer! My grandfather is just starting off with his laptop but I’m teaching him basics, like accessing his e-mail through Outlook. I’m also teaching him how to go on the Internet with Internet Explorer so he can research things he wants to know about. For example, we recently went to Cuba and he researched Cuban wildlife before we went. For my mom, I have set up her e-mail in Outlook so she knows how to use it because she uses it in her workplace.
My parents do give me rules on the Internet such as:
Don’t download bad programs or illegal software ex. LimeWire
Don’t accept things from strangers ex. Facebook friend requests
Don’t give any personal info ex. Bank details, where I live etc.
Don’t look at age inappropriate websites ex. gambling
Tell them if I have had a negative experience online ex. Cyber-bullying or something that made me feel uncomfortable!
Q: Rory, your parents sound fabulous, so involved. Kudos to them! What are some of your favorite websites and why?
A: Some of my favorite websites are Facebook and Twitter because I get to keep in touch with some friends that live far away, like people I’ve met on holiday. When we went to Devon, I met a friend over there and we have kept in touch for a couple of years now on Facebook, MSN and Xbox Live.
And I can communicate with my friends online. One of my other favorite websites is YouTube because it’s entertaining and I can find lots of information on there. If I need help with my laptop and I can’t find someone to help, YouTube often has the information I need! Another one is the Norton website because I can keep up-to-date with Symantec and I also like to look at the Norton Online Family blog and Online Family page because it teaches me safety online and I get to know what’s going on in the cyber-world.
Q: At your school, do you use the Internet in the classroom? Is there a favorite teacher who enjoys technology and shares that with the students? Tell us a bit about that.
A: Our teachers use laptops in virtually every lesson. They mainly use PowerPoint to explain at the beginning of the lesson. We use technology in some lessons to do some research on the Internet and to create posters about some subjects or in maths we use formulae in Excel when we want to calculate some hard problems. We also use a website called Mymaths.co.uk for homework and classwork. Also, some classes have an interactive whiteboard so they use starter-tasks of the Internet where pupils come to the front of the class and have a go at the task but the whole class gets involved whether it’s going to the board or giving the other pupil an answer on the task!
Q: You’ve mentioned you hope to enter a career in technology in the future. What sort of work do you think you’d like and why?
A: I would probably like to work in the line of anti-virus or online safety because I care about people’s online safety and I think it’s important that kids are safe online, just as much as adults! Also I would like to try and make sure the risk of kids facing a negative online experience is kept minimal. I know how frustrating it is to have a virus on your PC and lose all of your files or even worse, your money. So I would like to prevent that from happening to people who use technology in their day-to-day lives.
Q: Among your friends, is there someone who tends to introduce others to cool videos or websites or games? Why do you think they do that?
A: I think if there is a popular video on the Internet or a popular site online then people in my school are told about it by linking to it on their Facebook. Or we’ll share it on my school’s website forum or just in the class and hallways at school. And on sites like MSN, Twitter, and others, we’re always sharing links. Parents should talk to their kids and ask them what the current online trends are and what else is good to do online and try to get involved. Because, it’s also important to know yourself. I understand social networking is not for everybody because my step-dad really doesn’t like it. You don’t need to join just to get involved with your kids, but if you are involved, and friend your kids online (if it’s appropriate) then you can see what they like to do online.
Q: Have you ever had a negative online experience? Such as someone being mean or seeing things online that weren’t meant for kids? If so, how did you handle the situation?
A: Once when I was at my friend’s house for a sleepover, I went to check on my email and I found that I had an e-mail for Windows Live. It said that I had a friend request from someone. They also included a message saying that they have looked at my profile and that they wanted to talk to me. So I started to get a bit worried and upset about it because I felt quite uncomfortable with a stranger knowing my email and also the type of language and words they used like, “I like your profile” “do you want to go on webcam some time” or “would you like to meet up sometime”. I blocked the sender on the ISP website and I also blocked the sender in Outlook! (Ed. Almost all programs and web services provide the ability to block unwanted senders. Parents should configure these safety settings for their children’s accounts.)
After when I got home I told my mom about it and she helped me by telling me if I get a message like that I should just delete it. She also said, it’s important that if I see something that upsets me, I must also tell her at the same time.
Q: There’s been a lot of talk lately about privacy on the Internet. Do you try to keep your personal information private and if so, what steps do you try to take?
A: I try to keep my personal info as secret as possible. I do this by providing the least info possible when signing up for an account on the Internet ex. Facebook, Twitter etc. I also try to stay away from online shopping and I only use websites I trust ex. Amazon, Play.com, Symantec.com etc.
Q: if you have questions about technology, where do you turn for information? Do you have a friend who is “techy” or do you have particular online resources you like?
A: It mostly depends on the type of question, if it is about security, considering I have Symantec Norton Internet Security 2011, I would go to the Norton website and search for it. I also really like Marian’s Online Family Safety blog because I think it’s very interesting. But if it’s anything else I would probably use Google or if I’m really stuck and Windows breaks down and I don’t know what to do, my step-dad is really good with computers so he will help me.
Q: Besides enjoying the Internet and computers, what else makes Rory Bradley a special kid?
A:I think what makes me unique is that I always try my best in school and I am always ready to challenge myself and try something new. I’m also an active person who is always happy and is willing to give anything a go. I will always support others when they need help or when they are upset I will support them. My friends are very kind to me and they will help me when I need help or support and vice-versa. I like to think I’m a caring person and my teachers say I’m a very good listener in class. I’m a very big lover of animals, especially dogs and I think that it’s very important that animals are treated correctly and treated with love and care just how we would be expected to be treated as humans.
Q: If you could give a younger kid advice about the Internet, what would it be?
A: If I was going to give advice to class mates or the younger generation it would be:
Always tell your parents if you find something online that makes you feel uncomfortable
Don’t try to gain access to parental controls, if there is a website that has been blocked by mistake you need to tell your parents/guardian.
Try to kick-start “The Talk” instead of it being your parents or other family members all the time. Or just talk to your parents about what you like to do online and what’s popular at the moment and try to get a nice conversation going with your parents or other family members about the Internet. Remember it’s not a talk to see if you’ve done something wrong and to get you into trouble, it’s so your parents can try to get a bit more involved or get to know more about what you like to do in your online world! Also you won’t get into trouble for something that isn’t your fault or if you accidently visited something you shouldn’t have by clicking on a comment on YouTube or a link in Facebook or something like that.
Also remember if you have accidently clicked something and possibly downloaded a virus onto the family computer or even your own computer, don’t be afraid to tell your parents about it. You shouldn’t be punished for something that isn’t your fault!
The Internet isn’t all fun and games, even though it can be fun to go on, there are some bad programs that you can download. You need to be careful with what you download and click on because you may not know it’s a bad program but it could damage your PC or cause all sorts of problems.
If you want to shop online, ask your parents for permission and only use trusted websites ex. Amazon.co.uk or Play.com or ebuyer.co.uk etc.
Finally, if there is something on the Internet that seems too good to be true (ex. Win a free iPod if you hit the target) DON’T CLICK IT. Also try not to read any spam e-mail you receive, and if there is something you are unsure of, get a parent to have a look with you or ask someone else who knows a bit more than you.
Thanks for reading. Also I’d just like to say thanks to Marian who has organized and worked hard with me to make this blog entry possible. I would also like to thank my Mum, Step-dad and my Grandparents for reading through the blog entry as I write it and for putting up with me asking constant questions. Thanks again for reading! J