While the Internet enables people to communicate easily with each other, find good deals on needed items, research and gather information easily and much more, it also has its downsides. Bullies use the Internet to taunt and harass their victims, predators use the Internet to find vulnerable people and sites promoting violence, pornography and other evils abound. Thankfully, there are ways in which families can protect themselves from these evils. Following are five tips for being safe online that will enable you to get the most out of the Internet while avoiding its pitfalls.
Tips for Being Safe Online: Be Careful What You Post
Be very careful what you post online, as it is difficult if not impossible to remove a picture or comment that you put up on your social media site. Here are some points that all would do well to keep in mind:
- Avoid posting photos of yourself in front of your school and/or home. This lets everyone know exactly where you live; using this information, a predator can get a hold of your phone number and other private information.
- Teenagers should never post nude photos of an underage friend, even with this friend’s permission. Those who post such photos online may face criminal charges and may even end up being listed on the sex offenders’ registry,
- Older young people should realize that colleges, universities and potential employers often look at a person’s social media account in order to find out more about the individual. A good rule of thumb when deciding what to post is, “Would I want my future boss, college professor (or grandmother) to see this?” If the answer is no, do not post it.
Don’t Friend People You Don’t Know
Children and adults alike should not friend people they do not know. This is an avenue used by predators who want to gain access to potential victims.
You should also be careful about friending those who you do know. School friends who encourage and/or engage in bullying, individuals who post inappropriate content online and those who do not have a high (or any) standard of Internet security should not be friended.
Never Give Out Personal Information Online
Be very careful when giving out personal information online. If your family is heading out of town for a few days, keep this information to yourself until you get back. Never post your phone number, address, school information, work information, Social Security number and/or other such content on your social media site. The Internet is far from a private place and thieves, predators and fraudsters will use your personal information in a malicious way if you give them access to it.
Don’t Respond to Bullying
Unfortunately, bullying is a fact of life and chances are that you will be bullied online at least once. When this happens, do not respond to the bullying in kind. Getting angry, vowing revenge or bullying the bully in return escalates the situation and could put you in physical danger. Ignoring the bully can be a good course of action; bullies enjoy attention and will find someone else to pick on if you do not pay attention to them. On the other hand, bullies who make threats of physical violence should never be ignored. If someone is threatening to cause you physical harm, tell your parents and law enforcement officials. If the bully is someone you know from school, tell school officials as well.
Keep Security Software Current and Updated
The National Cyber Security Alliance recommends installing anti-virus security software not only on your computer but also on smartphones, gaming devices and other web-enabled devices. This program should be kept current, as hackers create new forms of malicious software on a very regular basis. Ideally, choose a program that will automatically update itself on a regular basis. Scan suspicious links, attachments and plug-in devices such as USBs and hard disks before opening and/or using them.
These tips for being safe online will not protect you from every form of evil that lurks on the Internet. However, they will help to greatly reduce the chances of your becoming a victim of an online predator, thief, cyber (or real life) bully and/or fraudster. Taking common sense measures to protect yourself can not only save you a lot of hassle and pain but also enable you to enjoy your Internet usage to the full, without fear of negative repercussions.