Keeping Safe Online
Staying safe online - use your social media smartly!
Social media - everyone’s doing it, almost every day. It is now such a big part of our lives that most readers of this site will not have known a time when they could get online and socialise, learn or check out the latest weird, wonderful or wacky craze. In New Zealand, we are bigger users of Facebook than they are in the USA, the UK and in Australia, and the use of these social sites will only keep growing.
There are tons of really good things about social media. Staying connected with friends and family is a biggie. So is sharing music, humour, art and ideas, and the chance to meet and interact with others who share your interests and passions.
But social media has a reasonably large flipside too. It enables users to potentially bully others, it can attract undesired and unwanted attention both from people you know and from strangers, and it can wreck your reputation and make potential future employers steer well clear of you. Remember, nothing online is temporary.
It is likely your teachers and maybe your parents have spoken to you about the traps and potential dangers of the online world. Don’t dismiss this advice.
If you are being bullied by someone online or by text messaging, you can do something about it. Chances are you know who is doing it, and it is likely they are from your school or wider, loose circle of friends and acquaintances. Firstly, don’t engage or respond as that only fuels their activities. Instead, dob them in and let your teachers and parents know what’s happening. Cyberbullies have no right to make you feel bad, and what they are doing is against the law. Like all bullies, they are feeding their own weaknesses so don’t let yourself become their latest snack.
The difference between cyberbullying and internet harassment is that you will likely know who the bully is. Harassment is usually done by strangers who have used your details to reach you. Again, tell someone and ask for help to stop this.
There are lots of tips to keeping you safe online
Most are plain common sense and all are easy. Here’s some of the basics you should be doing:
- Be careful what you post online. Never post your mobile phone number or your address. You give these out to friends when required. Also, never post bank details, PIN numbers or passwords. The only people wanting these are scammers. Try to be as anonymous as you can online.
- Check the photos you post, or others post of you. It might be cool to be snapped in strange (or no) clothes, indulging in something that you really shouldn’t be doing, but what happens when a potential employer looks up your profile, or the person assessing your hostel application does? What is really funny today can look horrible next month, and no matter what they tell you, once it is out there it’s pretty well out there for ever.
- Don’t friend anyone online you would not be friends with face to face. Especially don’t friend anyone you don’t know. Ever.
- Be a nice person. Lose the smart, mean comments that deep down you want to hurt or embarrass that person with. Why be the cyberbully? If you are feeling stressed, cross or upset, step away from the keyboard because this is not the time to start posting.
- Review what you say online, and to who, before you release it to the world forever. Think twice, and don’t do silly stuff and post party addresses or that your parents are away.
- Make your profile as private as you can. The internet gives clever people all over the world access to your private information, so don’t make it easy for them.
- Keep the online world online and the real world real. If you do decide to meet an online friend for real, why not Skype or video message with them first. Make sure they are who they say.
- Employ the “What would Grandma say?” rule. Don’t share anything online that you would not want your parents, teachers, your potential boss, your hostel manager or your grandma to see.