With most teens accessing the internet from mobile devices, many parents want to know how they can keep their teens safe online. While many programs and apps are designed with parental locks and passwords, they don’t teach teens how to navigate the web safely. Using the internet safely is about understanding risks and is a skill young people will need for their adult life. The internet is a tool that we need to learn to use effectively, so here are some tips to keep yourself safer online.
Pay attention to your location settings; some apps use your location. Don’t allow your specific location to be public. Strangers do not need access to information like where you work, or what neighborhood or part of town you live in. Also, be careful not to make your location obvious. If you live near famous landmarks or colleges, do not mention living near them in your posts.
Be aware of what you are sharing with others. Make sure you are not giving away your location, personal information about yourself, or friends in photos. A picture with a school sign or mascot could give away the city you live in or what school you attend. Also, remember to always ask permission before tagging a friend in a photo. You may be ok with sharing your location, but they may not be ok with sharing theirs.
Use a different profile picture for each of your platforms, games, apps, etc. a google image search of your profile picture could give strangers an easy way of finding out more about you through social media.
What you write on the internet will be there forever. Be thoughtful before posting. Would you want your parents, teachers, or boss to read it? Does what you are writing represent you positively? Would you say this to someone in person? Could your post impact you in the future?
Avoid putting personal details in your profiles or posting personal information such as your last name or your school. Even if you have tight privacy settings, someone you are connected with could share your profile information with others. Be mindful of sharing passwords, even with your best friends. When you share passwords, you are also sharing access to personal information.
You can get to know someone without asking or sharing personal details. Things like hobbies, musical tastes, interest, etc. are great conversation starters without having to share more private information like your birthday, last name, and family members’ names. We can still get to know people and maintain our privacy.
The FBI warns to never meet up with anyone you meet online. However meeting people and making friends online is becoming more common. Keep conversations through the app you’re using and avoid giving out your phone number to someone you haven’t met. If you are planning to meet someone online have your parents go with you and meet at a public place.
Question the intentions of others. A person over 18 should not be interested in a teenager and should not be revealing personal information about themselves, trying to get your personal information, or asking for pictures of you. Behaviors like this are red flags, if someone over 18 is messaging you let your parent or guardian know immediately.
Megan is passionate about prevention education and community. She strongly believes in social justice and ending violence. Megan works as a digital educator at HCWC where she uses social media, our podcast, and community presentations to promote gender equality, advocacy, consent, and healthy relationships. She is also passionate about advocating for peace, equality, and youth empowerment. She enjoys research, watching movies, playing roller derby, and spending time at the river with family.