The Internet is an incredible resource, allowing people from all over the world to connect with each other, share information and seek support. But this technology can also leave some users vulnerable to online scams, exploitation and oversharing of personal information.
Staying safe online is about understanding the risks, learning how to avoid them and practicing good habits to keep yourself safe online. It’s important to remember that your personal information, including photos and videos, can be viewed by anyone, at any time. And if something you post online becomes public, it may stay on the Internet forever, even when it is removed.
Use a strong password and change it often. It’s best to create a password that is hard for someone else to guess, but still easy enough for you to remember. It’s also a good idea to create multiple passwords so you can have more than one on hand, and to change them frequently.
Learn to recognize suspicious emails and websites that try to get your personal information. This is called phishing, and it can be a real risk to your identity. Hackers send emails that look like they come from a well-known website. They usually ask you to open an attachment, click a link or fill out a form.
Talk to your parents about the sites you visit and apps you use, and always make sure they are secure and that you have a password. It’s also a good idea for kids to have their own computer or mobile phone so that they can protect themselves when they are online.
Don’t chat with strangers and don’t share any personal information or photos, no matter how tempting they might seem. You never know who could be reading your messages and who could be stalking you.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that just because you are online, it’s safe to talk to strangers, but that isn’t true. Getting to know someone online isn’t the same as meeting them in person, and you should only agree to meet with an online friend after you have spoken to your parents about it first.
Be suspicious of anyone who asks you for money or sex, and don’t give out any information that you haven’t already shared with your parents. This includes your address, age, school or grade level, and your profession, if any.
Use privacy settings to prevent strangers from seeing your information and don’t post personal or private details, such as your phone number, address, bank account number or email address. This will protect you from unwanted contact and help to prevent cyberbullying.
Don’t use public Wi-Fi hotspots to get online, and don’t log into sites that ask for your password. These are called ‘phishing’ websites and can expose you to hackers who can access your account, steal your password or even access your money.
Take your Internet safety rules seriously, and put them in writing if possible. There are some premade contracts you can download and print from the Family Online Safety Institute, as well as some that you can create yourself with your kids.