Be Web 2.0-savvy and
First rule of smart surfing? Remain as anonymous as possible. That means
keeping all private information private. Here are some examples of
private information that you should never give out on the Internet:
- full name
- home address
- phone number
- Social Insurance
- names of family
- credit card numbers
credible people and companies will never ask for this type of information
online. So if someone does, it's a red flag that they may be up to no good.
Think carefully before you create an email address or screen name. Web
experts recommend that you use a combination of letters and numbers in both —
and that you don't identify whether you're male or female.
In chat rooms, use a nickname that's different from your screen name. That
way, if you ever find yourself in a conversation that makes you
uncomfortable, you can exit without having to worry that someone knows your
screen name and can track you down via email. Some people who hang out with
their friends online set up private chat rooms where only they and the people
they invite can enter to chat.
Experts recommend that people keep online friendships in the virtual world.
Meeting online friends face to face carries more risks than other types of
friendships because it's so easy for people to pretend to be something
they're not when you can't see them or talk in person.
If you ever get involved in a chat room conversation that makes you feel
uncomfortable or in danger for any reason, exit and tell a parent, teacher or
other adult right away so they can report the incident. They will then
see that the info is forwarded to law enforcement officials for investigation.
PROTECT YOUR ONLINE IDENTITY AND REPUTATION:
Here are some things to consider to safeguard your online identity
Remember that nothing is temporary online. The virtual world is full
of opportunities to interact and share with people around the world. It's
also a place where nothing is temporary and there are no
"take-backs." A lot of what you do and say online can be retrieved
online even if you delete it — and it's a breeze for others to copy, save,
and forward your information.
Mark your profiles as private. Anyone who accesses your profile on a
social networking site can copy or screen-capture information and photos that
you may not want the world to see. Don't rely on the site's default settings.
Read each site's instructions or guidelines to make sure you're doing
everything you can to keep your material private.
Safeguard your passwords and change them frequently. If someone logs
on to a site and pretends to be you, they can trash your identity. Pick passwords
that no one will guess (don't use your favorite band or your dog's birthday;
try thinking of two utterly random nouns and mixing in a random number), and
change them often. Never share them with anyone other than your parents or a
trusted adult. Not even your best friend, boyfriend, or girlfriend should
know your private passwords!
Don't post inappropriate or sexually provocative pictures or comments.
Things that seem funny or cool to you right now might not seem so cool years
from now — or when a teacher, admissions officer, or potential employer sees
them. A good rule of thumb is: if you'd feel weird if your grandmother,
coach, or best friend's parents saw it, it's probably not a good thing to
post. Even if it's on a private page, it could be hacked or copied and
Don't respond to inappropriate requests. Research shows that a high
percentage of teens receive inappropriate messages and solicitations when
they're online. These can be scary, strange, and even embarrassing. If you
feel harassed by a stranger or a friend online, tell an adult you trust
immediately. It is never a good idea to respond. Responding is only likely to
make things worse, and might result in you saying something you wish you
report inappropriate behavior or concerns at www.cybertipline.org.
breather to avoid "flaming." File this one under
"nothing's temporary online": If you get the urge to fire off an
angry IM or comment on a message board or blog, it's a good idea to wait a
few minutes, calm down, and remember that the comments may stay up (with your
screen name right there) long after you've regained your temper and maybe changed
You might feel anonymous or disguised in chat rooms, social networks, or
other sites — and this could lead to mean, insulting, or abusive comments
toward someone else, or sharing pictures and comments you may later regret.
We've all heard of cyberbullying, but most people think online bullying is
something people do intentionally. But sharing stuff or dropping random
comments when we're not face to face with someone can hurt just as much, if
not more. And it can damage how others see you if they find out. A good rule
to remember: if you wouldn't say it, show it, or do it in person, you
probably don't want to online.
Learn about copyrights. It's a good idea to learn about copyright laws
and make sure you don't post, share, or distribute copyrighted images, songs,
or files. Sure, you want to share them, but you don't want to accidentally do
anything illegal that can come back to haunt you later.
Check yourself. Chances are, you've already checked your "digital
footprint" — nearly half of all online users do. Try typing your screen
name or email address into a search engine and see what comes up. That's one
way to get a sense of what others see as your online identity.
Take it offline. In general, if you have questions about the trail
you're leaving online, don't be afraid to ask a trusted adult. Sure, you
might know more about the online world than a lot of adults do, but they have
life experience that can help.
Your online identity and reputation are shaped in much the same way as your
real-life identity, except that when you're online you don't always get a
chance to explain your tone or what you mean. Thinking before you post and
following the same rules for responsible behavior online as you do offline
can help you avoid leaving an online identity trail you regret.
It's not just strangers who can make you feel uncomfortable online.
Cyberbullying refers to cruel or bullying messages sent to you online. These
might be from former friends or other people you know. They can be irritating
and, in some cases, even frightening.
If you get these bullying messages online, it's often better to ignore them
rather than answer them. Cyberbullies, just like other bullies, may be angry
or disturbed people — and may be looking for attention or a reaction.
Fortunately, most people never experience cyberbullying. But if you're
getting cyberbullied and ignoring it doesn't make it go away, getting help
from a parent, school counselor, or another trusted adult may be a good idea.
That's especially true if the cyberbullying contains threats.
Online Annoyances Although email is relatively private, hackers can
still access it — or add you to their spam lists. Spam, like advertisements
or harassing or offensive notes, is annoying. But spam blockers can keep your
mailbox from getting clogged. Many service providers will help you block out
or screen inappropriate emails if your parents agree to set up
age-appropriate parental controls.
If you don't recognize the sender of a document or file that needs to be
downloaded, delete it without opening it to avoid getting a virus on your
machine. Virus protection software is a must for every computer. You can also
buy software that helps rid your computer of unwanted spyware programs that
report what your computer is doing. Some service providers make software
available to protect you from these and other online annoyances, such as
blockers for those in-your-face pop-up ads.
If you do invest in protective software, you'll need to keep it updated to be
sure it continues to do its job as new technologies evolve.
With all the problems you can face online, is it worth it? For most people,
the answer is definitely yes. You just need to know where the pitfalls are,
use some common sense and caution, and you'll be in control.
If you have any concerns, please see your school principal, guidance
counsellor or call the police.