Staying Safe Online: What to do and What not to do
Written by Emma Burbidge Posted in Internet
When using the internet, it is important that you know how to stay safe and can protect yourself online. You might think that Facebook and Twitter is all one big popularity contest, where you need to have as many ‘friends’ or followers as possible, but chatting to people you don’t know or giving too much information about yourself online can have serious repercussions.
Following these simple rules can help you stay safe online and limit your chances of becoming a victim of crime.
Rule 1: Don’t give away too much
Giving away too many personal details could put yourself and others at risk. You should not be friends on Facebook with people who you don’t know in real life.
You may already have lots of people in your friends’ list who are really more acquaintances than friends. You can restrict their access to certain information and block people who you don’t want to contact you by using the privacy settings.
Don’t put your personal email address, home address or mobile phone number on your profile and only provide access to your photos and information to friends.
Be alert about what information you put on your Twitter bio or Instagram profile as this information is open to anyone and you have little control over who can view it, making you an easy target for paedophiles or people wishing to steal your identity.
Rule 2: Protect your computer
If you don’t have antivirus software then install it now. This protects your computer from online threats which could steal your personal information, and perhaps your identity.
Don’t open attachments from people you don’t know.
If an email looks a bit suspect, then it probably is.
Rule 3: Protect your accounts
If you leave your Facebook logged in when you leave the room then you don’t know who could have access to your personal information and could seek to impersonate you. Store the password in a safe place, and don’t make it too easy to guess.
If you are using multiple social networking sites then you can try using different passwords. This will make it harder for people to hack into your account.
Store your passwords in your head, not on paper somewhere where it could easily be found.
Rule 4: Report Bullying and suspicious activity
If someone bullies you or says something offensive or inappropriate to you online then this could make you feel small and weak. If they are leaving horrible comments to a photo of you, or persistently sending you inappropriate messages, then you can block them on Facebook to stop them contacting you.
However, this may not stop the problem, particularly if the person is someone at your school or you are also connected to them on other social networking sites. It is always best to tell someone so that the perpetrators can be stopped completely and don’t target others. This is another reason why you should restrict access to personal information on these sites, as you don’t want them getting hold of your mobile number, or worse, your home address!
There are also a number of organisations which you can talk to if you are being bullied over the internet, such as ChildLine or the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP). If someone on the internet is making you uncomfortable you do not need to suffer in silence.
Rule 5: Don’t arrange to meet people you have only met online
It may sound obvious but internet chat rooms, social networking sites and online gaming websites are common places for paedophiles to hang out and groom their victims. They start by posing as someone else and then they lure their victims to a secluded setting where they could be raped, attacked, sexually assaulted, or worse. And this doesn’t just happen to girls either: boys are also common targets for paedophiles.
Please remember that you don’t know who you are talking to. You could be talking to anyone, and they might be much older than they say they are. They could be pretending to be a 14 year old girl, when in fact they are a 40 year old man - you just don’t know!
You might think you have a made a new friend but that person could try to seriously harm you. Giving someone you don’t know personally your personal details could result in harassment, rape and even sexual exploitation. Your personal safety is more important than your online popularity.
Rule 6: Protect your pictures and videos
If you take a naked picture of yourself, or take a picture you would not like the whole world to see then you need to keep a handle of it. Do not send it to others, or post it on social networking sites. If people send you pictures that are clearly private, then keep it private.
If the person in the picture has annoyed you, you may feel the need to share this with people in an attempt to embarrass them. This is very wrong as you have no control over where the picture could end up and you can never undo what you have done.
That person could feel victimised and ashamed, they may be bullied by others who have seen the photo, and it could damage their chances of getting a job, or put that person in physical danger.
Although you can ask websites to take down the harmful content, if it has already been shared on social networking sites then this makes it much harder to contain.
If the person in question is under the age of 18 then by sharing the picture you are breaking the law and could be prosecuted if caught with the picture in your possession, even if you are also a minor.
The only simple away to stop inappropriate snaps of you from going viral is to not take them in the first place!
So, follow these simple rules and you will be able to be safe on the net!
About the Author
Emma Burbidge is the marketing assistant at TCHC. She helps to manage the website and promote the Youth Contract. She enjoys writing for the blog and sharing advice and tips with young people on a range of topics, from finding a job to battling with depression.