Keeping Up Your Guard on the Internet

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I was working with a teen recently and she told me about how someone’s mom was bothering her on Facebook. Saying mean things and what not. No one should bother you on the internet, you know. Let alone, someone’s mom! There are laws about this now and you shouldn’t put up with cyber-bullying.

Time and time again I’m shocked that basic internet safety isn’t taught in schools. (At least this is what my clients tell me). And I know what you are thinking. You know how to stay safe on the internet. Don’t tell anyone your address or phone number. Yes, yes, but there is so much more!

The pictures and art work you post on social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr will perhaps be online forever. College and graduate school admissions officers may take a look at what you are up to (or were up to). And future employers will too. It seems so far away, I realize, to imagine yourself at a job. BUT, that picture of yourself with your eyes glazed over at your neighbor’s post prom party does not belong on the internet. And if someone tags you, remove it. Better safe than sorry, right?

Don’t let people know in any way, through pictures, posts, or hints, that you are out of town or will be out of town at any point. A friend of mine tells me this is paranoia, but I see it as basic safety. Why would you tell complete strangers your whereabouts? Heading off on Senior Spring Break? Wait until after your return to let everyone know about it.

 

Revealing too much personal information is one of the biggest issues with internet safety. And this can become really risky when talking to “friends “online.  Listen, I am not one to knock the people you meet online. I recognize that there is something that feels great about making connections with others in a place that feels safe, like the internet. However, keep your guard up. What do you know about your internet friends that can be confirmed? What would you do if they asked to meet you? I hear teens tell me all the time that they are convinced someone else is a teen based on the way the person chats online. But it is easy to fool people with language and slang and references to pop culture and what not, so you need to be careful.

 

The internet, in all its vastness and greatness, can be a dangerous place, so keep your guard up.

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