Staying Safe on the Internet: Tips to Help You

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By Gloria Kosir, Feature's Editor

Most of us in high school now were born into a time with so much accessible to us through the internet. Not being able to find a YouTube tutorial or Google something is a foreign idea to many, but it wasn’t that long ago when we couldn’t just pull out a phone or computer to search something. That being said, we’ve grown comfortable and reliant on the internet. We trust the results we get, and we aren’t afraid of talking to others through a screen, even if we can’t see their face. That can be especially problematic today, when the internet poses a much larger risk to users than before. Here is a list of 10 tips to help you, your family and your friends protect yourselves from the dangers of the web.

  1. If you don’t meet the age requirement for a social media platform like Snapchat or Instagram, don’t use it. There is content on these sites that is too mature for children under the age of 13, and these companies make these rules for a reason. Besides, you don’t want to post something as a little kid that you might be embarrassed about later, which brings us into our next point.
  2. Don’t post yourself participating in illegal activity. There is no benefit. There could be serious consequences that might not even cross your mind until it’s too late. This is especially important if you’re a student athlete or applying to colleges. Scouts don’t want to see you shotgunning a beer in your buddy’s basement, and it could cost you a position.
  3. Be cautious when someone sends you a text, email or DM about “claiming money” or “tracking a package.” A lot of times these are harmless, but there have also been reports of viruses being attached to these links that can take your information and even track your phone. It’s better to be on the safe side and not open these scam links.
  4. Going off of the 3rd tip, make smart choices about what you download. That free version of a movie, game or program might come with a virus or bug that can seriously mess with your device and information. Hacking isn’t that hard to learn, and you’d be surprised with the extent of what some hackers are capable of.
  5. Don’t choose simple passwords, especially for things like social media or email accounts. Don’t make the password match the username either, this will make it really easy for someone to guess your password and have access to your accounts.
  6. Sticking with passwords, as easy as it is, don’t use the same password for all of your accounts. I know it’s easier to remember it that way, but it’s not hard to reset your password if you forget it now. It’s more important to keep your information safe than to have a convenient, go-to password for everything you’re signed up for.
  7.  Remember, nothing on the internet can really be taken down. Think about what you comment, post, DM, search, and click on before doing it.
  8.  If you’re shopping online, make sure that the company is legitimate. You don’t want your credit card information to fall into the wrong hands, so check to see that it’s the right website and secure.
  9. Consider the use of VPNs, especially when using public WiFi networks. They’re usually safer, more secure, and more reliable. There are some free ones, but if you want one that’s probably safer and better-performing it might be best to pay for a VPN.
  10. Pedophilia is a disgusting reality of our world. It is a real thing, and there are child predators that cower behind screens. This is just another reason to wait until you’re old enough to join the social media universe. These individuals might ask for pictures, try to make conversation, or even offer to meet up with you. Unfortunately, far too many people have fallen prey to these tactics, and some of them didn’t even know it. It’s not uncommon for predators to pretend to be school-aged children so they can “befriend” children in their age preference over the internet. Please stay vigilant and report any suspicious activity, and if you feel uncomfortable while communicating with someone online, stop engaging with them.

Even though a lot of these tips deal with social media and online networking, they’re important to keep in mind for all ages and all uses of the internet. It’s an amazing tool that’s been used millions of times in helpful ways, but it’s still important to stay safe and be careful on it.