In an age of over-sharing and over-posting, it’s important to educate ourselves on internet privacy and safety options, and practice safe internet use, when surfing the web or using social media sites.
Children and young adults are especially at risk with social media profiles containing information on everything from where they go to school to who their best friends may be. According to an article citing a recent American Academy of Pediatrics paper, more than 50 percent of U.S. adolescents visit a social-media site every day, and 75 percent of those adolescents use their own smartphones to access these sites. With so many of our children and young adults using the internet on a daily basis, many times with little supervision, education is essential for everyone.
The problem for many families is simply a lack of knowledge on what’s safe and what’s not when going online, but consider sharing and adhering to these top five internet safety tips to keep you and your family safe when using the internet.
It seems that almost every program or site that we access requires a password, which is a good thing, but it can also act as easy access for hackers. While it may be a hassle to remember a different password for every single site you access, it is worth the extra work to avoid other people accessing your email or social media profiles. And it’s not just about choosing different passwords; it’s also about choosing the right passwords. When choosing a password, you should use a combination of both letters and numbers with the addition of special characters or capitalized letters. The stronger your password is, the stronger your protection against danger will be. If you have trouble keeping track of passwords, there are several smartphone apps that can store your passwords for you, or you can simply record these passwords in a safe place at home.
Do the Updates
Many of us ignore computer or software updates that pop up every once in a while, but this could be a big mistake. An article on “Business Insider” reviewed several ways to keep your computer secure, and one of their tips on maintaining safety focuses on the importance of computer or software updates. “Automatic updates ensure that your computer will always have the latest bug fixes and patches. Often computer makers will issue these updates after they identify problems,” so having the latest software and most up to date versions of programs will ensure the safety of your computer.
While software update downloads are a good idea, some downloads are not. Before downloading any new app or program, it is important to read the permissions of the program, and understand what information is required to download the program. Some apps, for example, will use your personal information to sell to third parties or gain the ability to install various cookies on your computer to track your viewing history. Just remember that when you download anything, know what goes on your computer’s hard drive other than just the program or app and be sure to check the security of the site.
Oversharing is a term that has become synonymous with our online behavior as we gain the ability to share more and more about ourselves over the internet. One blogger featured on Huffington Post refers to this as an “oversharing epidemic” and lists five ways to avoid such oversharing, which include avoid sharing details on politics, complaints, and personal habits. Remember, young adults especially may forget that their social media profiles can act as a permanent record. While there are obvious rules to social media etiquette that also include not including your address or contact information in your profile description, even if you do not use social media you could be unintentionally sharing more than you’d like. One example is email. It is a good idea to never share any personal information over email because you run the risk of your or the recipient’s email of being hacked. You could also run the risk of sending your information to the wrong email address or have your personal information land in the wrong hands.
Protecting your Identity & Keeping it Personal
All of these tips will help you and your family to maintain your online privacy and better protect your identity, but there are a few specific things you can today to ensure that your identity stays your identity. The first tip, an idea cited in lieu of Safer Internet Day, is to choose a gender-neutral email addresses or screen name. For working adults who use their full names, this is sometimes appropriate but especially for younger people, this tip is very helpful for safety online and avoiding online “stalkers.” Another tip is to be careful when using public computers. Even if there is a log in, such as at a public library, everything you do on that computer can be stored so never access important sites that contain your personal information, such as banking sites. In addition, make you sure that you always log off and check to make sure none of your passwords were accidentally stored.