The National Consumers League created this guide to help answer these questions and give you the information you need to "make the connection" to the Internet. A glossary is included to help you understand some basic online terms.
Why Go Online?
You can save time and money, communicate with people quickly and easily, get information you need, and have fun on the Internet. Here are just some of the things you can do:
+ Exchange messages, photos and documents with friends and family;
Think of the Internet as a tool that you can use as much or as little as you want, any time, from anywhere. You can learn how to do new things gradually – it's not necessary to be a computer expert. You don't even need your own equipment and Internet access; you may be able to go online free at your local library, school, or community center.
Is It Safe To Go Online?
Going online is a lot like going for a walk, using the telephone, or answering a knock on your door. The same common- sense precautions apply.
8 Common-Sense Online Safety Rules
How Do I Get Started?
Most people go online using a computer with a modem, which is either built-in or a separate item. The modem plugs into the wall outlet for your telephone and dials a number to reach the service that you have chosen to connect you to the Internet. If you're going to be online a lot, consider getting a second phone line or ask your local or long distance telephone company about other options. For instance, new technology may allow you to connect by telephone without tying up your line.
Depending on the service that's available in your area, you may be able to connect to an Internet service provider (ISP) through your cable television wire or by satellite as an alternative to a telephone line. And instead of a computer, you could go online using equipment such as your television, a cellular phone, or some other wireless device. Technology is changing fast and there are more and more choices for how to go online, so take the time to explore all the possibilities.
No matter what you use to go online, your Internet service provider (ISP) is the gateway. Telephone and cable companies may provide this service, and there are many other companies to choose from as well. Some provide just the basics – email and access to the Internet. Other providers offer extra benefits such as their own online shopping "malls, chatrooms, and customized services."
7 Things To Consider In Choosing Your Internet Service Provider (ISP)
Some Internet service providers (ISP) offer discounts if you sign up for a long- term contract and pay in advance. But things change quickly, and companies come and go. It may make more sense to sign up for service that gives you the flexibility to change to another provider easily if you choose.
How Can I Find Out More?
There are lots of good books, newspaper, and magazine articles about going online. Basic Internet classes may be available at local schools, community centers, libraries, or senior centers. Once you go online, you'll find information about privacy and security and other helpful advice from many sources, including the National Consumers League. So get connected, and have a wonderful time!
Basic Online Terms
Browser: A computer program that helps you find your way around on the Internet.
Chat: A live discussion with people who gather at a particular place (called a chatroom) online and type messages that others who are there can read and respond to immediately.
Cookie: A bit of electronic information that can be placed in your computer when you visit a Web site to track what you look at there, recognize you when you return, and in some cases, track where else you go on the Internet.
Email: An electronic message that is typed and sent to a specific person or group of people.
Encryption: A method used to scramble information such as a credit card account number so it can be transmitted securely and unscrambled only by the person for whom it was intended.
Hardware: A computer, screen, keyboard, and other equipment.
Internet: A global system that allows computers to communicate with each other.
Internet Service Provider (ISP): A company that provides access to the Internet and may also offer other online services to members or subscribers.
Newsgroup: A place where you can post messages for others to read later.
Software: A program that tells computers how to do specific things.
Spam: Unsolicited email, sometimes referred to as "junk email."
Virus: A computer code that can damage your files or disrupt your computer system. Special software can warn about viruses and sometimes fix the damage they cause.
Web Site: A place on the Internet that is made up of one or more "pages" and may be created by an individual, an organization, a government agency, a school, or a company to offer information and, in many cases, to allow interactive communication with visitors.
Basic Online Resources
National Consumers League
Center for Democracy in Technology
Electronic Privacy Information Center
Federal Trade Commission
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
U. S. Federal Government Resources