The Top 10 Tips to Be Safe Online

iStock_000008334081LargeNowadays, it seems like everyone is constantly changing their status updates on their favorite social network websites. From Facebook to MySpace, YouTube to Twitter, the possibilities to express yourself online are endless. According to recent statistics, there are more than 250 million active users on Facebook who spend a combined 5 million minutes on the site each day. As the popularity of these sites continue to grow at an exponential rate, it is important to remember to be safe while you are online. To help you stay safe while using social networks, please take a look at these top 10 tips.

  • Think about what you post. Sharing provocative photos or intimate details online, even in private emails, can cause you problems later on. Even people you consider friends can use this info against you, especially if they become ex-friends.
  • Passwords are private. Don’t share your password even with friends. It’s hard to imagine, but friendships change and you don’t want to be impersonated by anyone. Pick a password you can remember but no one else can guess. One trick: Create a sentence like “I graduated from King School in 05” for the password “IgfKSi05.”
  • Be nice online. Or at least treat people the way you’d want to be treated. People who are nasty and aggressive online are at greater risk of being bullied or harassed themselves. If someone’s mean to you, try to ignore them – often that makes them stop. Use privacy tools to block them from viewing your full profile and contacting you.
  • Read between the “lines.” It may be fun to check out new people for friendship or romance, but be aware that, while some people are nice, others act nice because they’re trying to get something. Flattering or supportive messages may be more about manipulation than friendship or romance.
  • Be smart when using a cell phone. All the same tips apply with phones as with computers. Except phones are with you wherever you are, often away from home and your usual support systems. Be careful who you give your number to and how you use GPS and other technologies that can pinpoint your physical location.
  • Trust your gut if you have suspicions. If you feel threatened by someone or uncomfortable because of something online, tell someone. Report serious concerns to the police and to the social networking site. Most sites have links where users can immediately report abusive, suspicious, or inappropriate online behavior.
  • Use privacy settings to restrict who can access and post on your website. Some social networking sites have strong privacy settings. Learn how to use these settings to limit who can view your online profile, and remember why this is important.
  • Remind yourself that once you post information online, you can’t take it back. Even if you delete the information from a site, older versions may exist on other people’s computers and be circulated online.
  • Talk to kids and students about bullying. Online bullying can take many forms, from spreading rumors online and posting or forwarding private messages without the sender’s OK, to sending threatening messages. Tell your kids that the words they type and the images they post can have real-world consequences. They can make the target of the bullying feel bad, make the sender look bad – and, sometimes, can bring on punishment from the authorities. Encourage your kids to talk to you if they feel targeted by a bully.
  • Help your kids understand what information should be private. Tell them why it’s important to keep some things – about themselves, family members and friends – to themselves. Information like their full name, Social Security number, street address, phone number, and family financial information — like bank or credit card account numbers — is private and should stay that way. Tell them not to choose a screen name that gives away too much personal information.

As you continue to use social networking websites, please keep these tips in mind. They will help you have a more safe and enjoyable online experience.

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~ by pinnaclepov2224 on July 22, 2009.

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