At its core, the Internet can be a very wonderful resource to people. It can give you the ability to find information you are looking for, keep in touch with others, be connected with the world, and so many other things. However, there are many horror stories about safety online. Many believe that if you want to be safe online, online is the last place you should go. There are a few factors you will want to think about to get a real understanding of how safe the Internet is.
The Dangers You Face Online
The first thing to understand about the Internet is the different dangers that you could encounter while you are on there. However, it seems there are new ways emerging every day; there are a few you should know about.
- Identity Theft: This is something people are most afraid of online. It can happen when items are bought on a page that is not secure or even when someone is able to hack into your computer to get access to your passwords and account information.
- Strangers: If you visit forums or other sites where you interact with people, you can meet strangers and it is almost impossible to know who these people really are. Many people ask if online dating is safe, and while there are ways to make it safer, the thought of meeting a stranger is still something that is dangerous because you do not know who they really are.
- Sexual Exploitation: There are many people online looking to take advantage of others sexually, be it children or adults. They may show them nude pictures or videos or may pressure you into taking them of yourself.
- Bullying: The fact that people can hide behind a computer screen tends to bring out the worst in some people. This can make some people very mean to the point of bullying. There have been many cases of people killing themselves over things people have said to them online. Often times, if people see this bothers some one, they will become more aggressive with their comments over time.
How to Protect Yourself Online
There are many ways that you can keep yourself as well as your family safe when you are online. The first thing you will want to do is have the right protection software on your computer. Viruses, malware and other malicious threats can not only cause your computer to stop working, but also leave you vulnerable. This is because there are some that are designed to give the hacker the ability to go through your information. Talk with a tech specialist to find out the right program for your needs.
Kid Safe Search Engines
Another way that you can protect yourself when you are online is with search engines designed for kids. They are designed to filter out the inappropriate content so that you do not have to worry about your child seeing or getting involved in something they should not be. While this cannot take care of everything, it is a great place to start.
Be Careful about What You Share Online
If you want to be safe online, make sure you do not over-share online as this can give people an insight into your life they would not otherwise have. You may find that what starts out as a normal conversation can easily turn into a fishy situation. When someone starts asking for information like your date of birth, mother’s maiden name or other information that can be used to hack you or steal your identity, do not answer and leave the page.
Choose Passwords Carefully
There is the chance for any page to be hacked, even ones of large companies. This is why you should never use the same password for multiple sites, especially if you use the same email address for them. Along with this, you need to make sure you are choosing a secure password. It is best to include one upper case letter, one number and a special character.
Another good idea with this is to change your passwords every few months. If you are worried you will forget them, write them down on a notepad that you can keep near your computer. It is a bad idea though to put all your passwords in a document or spreadsheet on your computer labeled passwords. If someone hacks your computer, they will have this information.
Other Tips for Children Online
It seems that as with real life, children tend to be a bigger target online. This is why you should take all the different precautions you can to make sure they stay safe when they are online. Some of the things you can do are:
- Talk with your child about the dangers online. They will usually be more receptive to listening to what you have to say if they understand why you are being the way you are.
- Use the parental controls on your computer. Most computers or Internet browsers offer parental controls. If not, there are programs out there you can download that will not allow children to access these sites without your permission.
- Supervising Internet activity is a good idea as well. You do not have to be looking over their shoulder all the time, though this may be a good idea if they are new to using the Internet. As they get older you can just periodically check in on them. Even though your children may see this as a violation of their privacy, explain that it is to protect them.
- Only allow them to go to chat rooms that are designed for children. Ensure that your child is not talking with someone who is really an adult trying to exploit them.
It is Up to You
In the end you determine how safe the Internet is. If you want to stay safe online, then you will need to follow proper precautions and have the right protection. While there is no guarantee that there will not be an issue, you can still be prepared and protected while online.