Graduated MHS student works on assignments from home on her laptop. (Annie Sichting)
Graduated MHS student works on assignments from home on her laptop.

Annie Sichting

Staying Safe Online

December 17, 2020

This year has brought many more people to the internet to pass the time spent in quarantine while dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether it be Animal Crossing, Minecraft, Among Us, Instagram, Snapchat, or even Facebook, people can be brought together from all corners of the world on one internet server. Although meeting new people online can seem fun at first, it is important to remember to stay safe while on the internet. 

People are constantly handing out these warnings about things that may seem obvious, such as not revealing names and locations to strangers. However, many people may brush off these warnings, saying that adults are just being paranoid, but these warnings are important. Schools promote the importance of staying safe, but students often ridicule it, ignoring the spiel that they are constantly hearing. Today, we’re reiterating the importance of staying safe online and giving the “Dos and Don’ts” of online safety. 

1. Don’t share personal information.

While chatting or posting online, especially with people you do not personally know, it is very important to keep facts about your personal life to yourself. Do not go out telling people your exact address, times when you’re not at home, or anything that could possibly be used against you in a negative way. People can be clever and use clues from the background of the pictures you post to find out where you live. Even tiny little profile pictures can give away personal information.

2. Create strong passwords, and don’t give out passwords. 

Passwords are very important to your privacy rights. If someone knows your password, or can easily guess your password, they could hack into your account and cause countless struggles by posting something bad, buying items with your money, or planting a virus in your system. There are a lot of scams out there that can trick you into entering your password. Do not use the same password for everything. Also, do not enter in your password on another site to win a “free giveaway!”

3. Be careful about who you let follow you.

Safety is much more important than the number of followers you have on social media. Take advantage of the privacy settings social media apps, such as Instagram, offer. With this on, only the people you let follow you can see what you post. Letting everyone follow you that requests it defeats the purpose of the setting. If you really love posting on social media and having tons of followers, you could create a spam account or a private story that is exclusive to only your close friends.  

4. Don’t put locations on posts (geolocation, signs, etc).

If you do have people who you either do not know or do not know well following you, do not share your location. Somebody could stalk you on the web and find you in real life. For example, Snapchat has the function to see where anyone is located at a given time, which people could take advantage of. Use the Ghost Mode on Snapchat so that none of your friends can know your location, or allow only a few close friends to know your location. Also, avoid placing locations on your photos and wait until you are home from vacation to post those photos. 

5. Know that not everything online is true.

There are plenty of scams out there for people to fall for, so take everything you read with a grain of salt. Try finding information from a reliable source or cross-referencing anything you find. Links ending with .org or .edu are more likely to have facts than links ending with .com or .net. As Abraham Lincoln once said, “Not everything you read on the internet is true!”

6. Remember that people are not always honest online.

People often use the anonymity of the internet to take advantage of unsuspecting people. Someone may lie about their age, their gender, or their sexual orientation to lure unsuspecting teenagers into traps. They could be using online photos or even pictures from someone else’s account to catfish people into talking to them. 

7. Don’t meet up with people you met online.  

Never ever meet up with someone you met online. Remember that people may not always have the best interests at heart and may lie about who they are. They may say sweet things to get you to meet up with them. They may seem harmless behind the screen, but meeting up with people in-person always puts you at risk. Although, if you do have to meet up with someone you met online, never ever go alone.  

8. Don’t post things you’ll regret, because nothing ever goes away.

People can screenshot your posts and save them even after they have been deleted. Although Snapchat informs you if something has been screenshotted or shared, people can always use other devices to take pictures of and share your information. The internet also always remembers what was posted on it, and, with a little digging, even deleted posts can resurface. Always avoid being mean, avoid cursing, and try to just be polite overall. 

9. Don’t open an attachment from someone you do not know. 

If you receive an instant message or email from an unfamiliar person, beware, especially if there is a link attached. Strange links could send you to a site you did not want to see, plant a virus on your device that cannot be fixed, or reveal your location to a stranger. 

10. Block them, and tell an adult if someone is harassing you.

If someone is being mean or if you are in a situation that makes you uncomfortable, remember that you can always log off. If the problem escalates, there will always be an adult willing to assist you with any struggles. It may seem scary to admit that you’ve done something wrong or you’ve gotten yourself into some trouble, but your safety is the number one priority. 

 

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