Staying Safe Online - Tips and Resources
We have some basic tips and resources that can help you stay safe online without sacrificing the fun and usefulness of technology.
If it seems as though you and your friends are quite tech-savvy and always online nowadays, you aren’t wrong. This is the generation that is growing up with smart devices, and social media isn’t new and obscure; it’s something you will be growing up with. And you’ve probably had numerous school projects and assignments that require you to do research online and make use of all kinds of informative sites. While it’s clear that the internet is a great thing, you still need to be mindful of safety.
We’ve got several basic tips and resources you can use that will help you stay safe online all without taking away the fun and usefulness of the tech. Let’s take a look.
Use Strong Passwords Across the Board
The first tip for keeping you safe is to get into the habit of using strong passwords. This means using a variety of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. It can get pretty confusing and difficult to remember all your passwords so it’s a good idea to write them down and keep them somewhere safe if you’re a tween. Teens may choose to use a password manager app that keeps all the information safely and securely stored.
For those of you who are relatively new to smart devices, the internet, and social media, such as tweens or those in their early teenage years, don’t be surprised if your foster parents suggest you give them a copy of your passwords too.
As an extra layer of safety, make sure to change your passwords from time to time.
Keep Your Software and Apps Updated
Here's a tip that's important for keeping you safe and ensuring that hackers can't get a hold of your personal information. Each time your device alerts you that there is an update available for software or apps, it's important to update it right away. These updates take into account the latest vulnerabilities and threats, providing fixes for them.
If you’re unsure of how to do an update, ask your foster parent for help and they can take you through the steps. Depending on the app or the software, these updates can be very frequent so don’t be alarmed if that’s the case.
Never Share Your Personal Information Online
While it may be tempting to share your full name, address or even your phone number, the fact is that you don't know the person on the other side of the screen. It is never safe to share your personal information online.
Be Careful About What You Open and Who You Accept Requests From
Tweens and teens with an email address will find they probably get a fair amount of spam and emails from unfamiliar senders. It is never wise to open this as it could be a scam. Only open emails from people you know. You can add all your contacts to your email address book and if it’s not from one of those email addresses, then you can delete it right away. Should you open an email by mistake from a sender you don't recognise, be sure not to click on any links or downloads.
The same principle applies to friend requests. If you don’t personally know the person sending the request, then it’s not smart to accept it. This applies to social media and even online gaming.
Never Share Your Device with Others
Just because you're aware of all the important safety protocols and steps you can take, doesn't mean your friends are. This is why it's important to never share your device with others, especially a stranger.
Remember What You Post Online Lives There Forever
What can be difficult for kids such as yourself to understand is that whatever you post online lives there forever. That tweet that you sent out remains weeks, months and years from now. So, think carefully about what you want to post.
Sending Photos Isn’t Safe or Wise
You may come across an instance where someone asks you to send photos of yourself to them. Again, it's not a safe move. Sharing photos through instant messaging or text means you are giving someone else control over that digital file. It is no longer just yours.
Learn How to Find Safe and Trustworthy Websites
This particular tip can be a confusing one, as it's not always obvious which sites are safe and trustworthy versus those that are filled with misinformation. As you get a little older it may be easier to tell the difference, but not always.
A good tip is to approach any site with a reasonable amount of scepticism. Other tips you can use include:
- Check the URL and address bar to ensure it starts with "https://"
- Check that the address bar shows the lock icon
- Check out the company on social media to see if it's legitimate
- Look to see if the site has a "contact us" page, as this adds legitimacy
- Use the Google Safe Browser Transparency Report
- Conduct a virus scan
- These are a lot of steps and you may need an adult to help you with some. It’s a good lesson to learn, however, and soon you’ll be able to do all of these by yourself.
Speak to Your Foster Parents
The final tip is to speak to your foster parents if you have any concerns, doubts or fears about encounters you may have had online, sites you’re unsure of and the measures you can take. Perhaps they have already spoken to you briefly about internet safety.
Adults like your foster parents are there to help and to keep you safe in all situations, including an online environment. It’s much better to be open with them than to find yourself in a potentially dangerous situation online. This is especially important if you encounter any forms of cyberbullying.
The fact is that the internet is a fun and helpful resource, but it can also be filled with bad characters, scams, viruses and other issues. This is why it’s so important to remain vigilant and safe online at all times.