Social media has been on a rise for the past decade – with the average person having at least a Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, or some other account to communicate online. In fact, according to NetSmartz, 73% of teenagers have accounts on these social networking websites. However, keeping in touch with the rest of the world is harder than it was when these social media sites first started up years ago. Online predators and identity theft are now among a number of dangers an Internet connection demands. Below are some straightforward ways to maintaining a safe and social experience on the computer.
Keep Your Personal Information Private
This is the golden rule of the Internet – keep your personal information to yourself. Sure, Facebook has a space for you to fill in your telephone number, but do you really want your number publically displayed on a popular website for the entire online world to come across? Sites like Facebook that allow you to record every activity and accomplishment in your life (you can now post a new language you learned or when your last promotion was right on your Timeline) are seriously in need of a reality check. No one should have such explicit access to everything in your life. Imagine what someone could do with a full profile collected of you – name, age, location, telephone number, email, parents’ names, etc – and keep your privacy boundaries in mind the next time you update your “About Me” section.
Don’t Talk to Strangers!
As Mom always said, don’t talk to random, “friendly-looking” strangers. This is most significant when on the Internet, a domain that boasts an anonymous appeal for its users. Online users are able to hide behind falsified identities from the comfort of their own home. Do not expect explicit honesty from everyone in a chat room – just as you would not completely trust a stranger you just met at a bar in real life. It is crucial to maintain a weary guard against potential predators, which make up an unfortunately hefty deal of the Internet. People online that you do not know should be treated with the highest of caution and, by no means, should you ever meet face-to-face with a stranger from the Internet.
Report Any Signs of Abuse
If you feel threatened or harassed in any way, websites urge you to report the offender and/or block them from contacting you further. Facebook, in an effort to curb online bullying and disturbing material, conveniently places “Report Story as Spam” buttons in every corner of the site. Those buttons are there to be used, so users are urged to use them when appropriate. Sadly, many cases go unreported. NetSmartz reports that 1 in 3 teens have experienced harassment over the computer. The Internet is meant to be shared by all – no one should felt uncomfortable doing so.
Don’t Air Out Your Dirty Laundry
Yes, sites encourage you to “Say what’s on your mind” and express yourself, but informing the entire world of your misfortunes on a regular basis is both unsafe and unnecessary. Though it may not feel like everyone on the Internet cares about what you write, your complaints or venting session is published for all to see. Anyone is able to view your blog full of parental drama and relationship insecurities, which ties back in to the idea of keeping your information private. There is simply no need to tell the world of your arguments with friends and family. For this sort of self-reflection, stick to the old-fashioned diary hidden under your mattress.
[Image by Pixomar]