Protect Yourself Online
There seem to be a lot of scammers around at the moment – plus plenty of online hacking. This is on top of malware, computer viruses and other technical attacks your computer can be vulnerable to. None of us wants our information stolen (or our money, for that matter!); and we don’t want our privacy compromised. So here are some general guidelines around online security – not only for kids and teens, but anyone with an online presence – and how to keep yourself and your software safe.
Don’t give personal information to strangers online
Personal information is anything about you. Your full name, where you live, your school’s name, your parents’ names, your home address and phone number. These pieces of information can help a stranger on the internet find you, so be very careful about who you give this info to. First of all, don’t give it to anyone you haven’t met in real life. Also, if you share any of this information on social media sites, be sure to check the privacy settings on the site to make sure none of it is viewable by the public.
Make online accounts safe and use strong passwords. Your passwords should be no less than eight characters long; they shouldn’t include words that can be found in a dictionary, as that makes it easier for hackers using computer programs to guess them. They should contain a mix of numbers, uppercase and lowercase letters, and special characters. And remember: don’t reuse the same password on every site you visit!
When creating an account to join a website, be sure to create a username that protects your personal information. Don’t use your full name as the username – it’s part of the personal information that strangers can use to find out more about you by doing a simple internet search.
Social media ‘netiquette’
What you post online will stay there forever, even if you delete it. Colleges and future potential employers will check out social media profiles of applicants, so make sure that what you post online is appropriate, and check your security settings to be sure that everything you post can only be seen by your friends. If you don’t know how to do that, ask an adult for help.
In particlar, beware of “catfishing”. Catfishing is when a person sets up a profile and pretends to be someone they’re not. You may think you’re talking to a kid your age, but it could be an adult pretending to be a child behind your computer screen. Use caution when someone you don’t know approaches you on social media. If something about it makes you feel uncomfortable, notify a parent or teacher as soon as possible. And remember, if you don’t know the person, do not “friend” him or her.
Cyberbullying, or online bullying, is similar to bullying in real life except that it takes place via electronic devices. This can be a mean text message, a rumour spread on a social media site, and even posting personal information about you online. If you come across a situation that makes you feel uncomfortable or bad, don’t respond to it yourself. Instead, notify a parent or teacher about the hurtful messages. Adults take cyberbullying seriously, and there can be consequences for the bully, such as being suspended from school or getting disciplined by parents.
What are the long-term effects of cyberbullying?
Annual events such as Australia’s annual National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence (NDA), and National Bullying Prevention Month in the US, are aimed at promoting awareness and the importance of cyber safety for kids. Cyberbullying can have many long-term effects that can be damaging on children as they get older.
Being bullied online can leave a child or teen feeling overwhelmed, especially from constant attacks through online platforms such as social media. This overwhelming feeling can progress into depression if it’s not addressed; it can also affect grades and ongoing learning through the school years. Poor school performance can lead to additional feelings of helplessness, further reinforcing a depressive outlook towards life in general.
Bully or victim – both lose
Victims of online trolling suffer the most, with long-term risks including self-destructive behaviour, anxiety and depression. However, the bullies themselves are also at risk of developing long-term effects as a result of their cyberbullying. If not addressed with proper treatment, a bully can grow up with or develop various issues later in life. These can include substance abuse, a lower likelihood of being employed, antisocial behaviour, and child or spousal abuse.
Parents often don’t know that cyberbullying is going on. To use Australia as an example, recent research shows that only 28% of parents are aware that their teen or child has gone through a negative experience at some point online.
So, for parents, it’s important to know about these issues and discuss them with their child or teenager; doing so is a step towards increasing awareness regarding cyber safety for kids, and how we can better protect them.
App Security 101
Just because an app is available for download doesn’t mean that it’s a safe app. For your online security, it’s best to download apps from known and trusted stores like Google Play or the Apple App Store; they test apps to make sure they’re safe to use.
Scammers are constantly trying to trick people into downloading apps that look just like a real one in order to get the data that’s on your phone. You can check if an app is real by reading the comments on the download page. If you still can’t tell, ask an adult to help you choose the right app before downloading it. Or use Norton Mobile Security, which alerts you to suspicious apps before you download them.
Other online security tips
- Join clubs or enter contests only after you’ve obtained your parents’ approval.
- Remember: if it sounds too good to be true, it is.
- Never reply to “friends” on social media or people asking for money; and don’t click on suspicious links they send. Once again, if you don’t know the person, do not accept their friend request.
- Be aware of which open Wi-Fi portals you’re joining on your phone; antivirus software will help.
- Be a good online citizen. The internet is forever, so anything said online stays online. Nothing really gets deleted, not even on Snapchat!
All of these are essential cyber-safety skills, but you can also take preventive steps with security software. Norton 360 Deluxe is a great solution for securing the devices in the home. It can help protect up to five Windows PCs, Macs, Android smartphones or iPads.
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