ONLINE SAFETY GUIDE
Meeting people online can be a great experience, but not everyone out there is worth getting to know. In fact, some people abuse the internet by lying about who they are and hiding their true intentions. The best defense is to educate yourself about online safety, and to stay on guard when you’re communicating online.
www.NSTeens.org offers resources for teens to manage their online safety including how to deal with and report instances of cyberbulling, how to manage your online privacy and more.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of America site www.MyClubMyLife.com is a site intended for and developed by teens. The site offers valuable information on teen issues including health and fitness, prom safety and information on how to pick a college, career or develop leadership skills.
Reading and following the tips below will help you stay safe:
- Don’t share your personal information online.
Obviously, you shouldn’t post the major stuff – like your full name, address, and phone number. But even information that seems innocent can be dangerous to post. A photo of your school ID, details about where you hand out, or information about your friends can all lead an online stranger to find you in person. Be careful when you post and think about what’s safe to reveal.
- Only post information that you’d want everyone to know.
Even if you keep your profile private, it’s still a public site and your info could end up getting re-posted or shared by one of your friends. When you fill out your profile, pretend that your parents, your school, or your employers might look at it.
- Maintain some control over where your information is posted.
If you don’t want everyone reading your profile, you can make it friends-only so it’s not visible to the public. Use the privacy settings to keep a handle on who has access to your information.
- Choose your screenname carefully.
Don’t include your real name, phone number, age, or hometown.
- Choose your password carefully.
Don’t make it the same as your screenname, and don’t include information people could find out, like your birthday or the name of your dog.
- Don’t share your password with anyone. Ever.
It’s yours and yours alone. Even if you think you can trust someone, it’s never a good idea to give them your password.
- Flirting online can be dangerous.
You never know who you are talking to. Unfortunately some people lie about their age or who they are, and it’s easy to get confused if the situation turns romantic. Stay on guard.
- Meeting online friends in person is a bad idea.
The person you think you know online may be very different in person, and meeting up can be extremely dangerous.
- Remember that the word “friend” means something different online.
Sometimes you’ll accept a friend who you don’t really know in order to share or see private profile pages. Just because someone is on your friends list doesn’t mean you can trust them. Often times they are still strangers who you met online, and you need to be just as careful as you would with non-friends.
- Trust your instincts.
If someone seems sketchy, they probably are.
- Use safety features.
If your “friend” is not who you thought, drop them from your friends list. If you encounter a user you don’t like, use “ignore.” If you see someone who is breaking the rules or has bad intentions, use “report”. Not only will you keep yourself safe, but you may also help others by notifying staff when someone is behaving inappropriately on the site.
- Don’t believe everything you read.
Misinformation gets spread around the internet just as much as reliable information. Be especially careful when following advice from someone you don’t know – make sure to do your own research and reach your own conclusions.