Thursday, December 14

Keeping Safe Online

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Now days nearly everyone is “online” with internet access at libraries, fast food restaurants, gas stations and more. It’s also common to have cell phones with internet and other various electronics having internet abilities. It is no wonder that it is estimated that over 75% of Americans are online.

With that many people online there is a lot of activity going on. Chatting, dating, reconnecting, bill paying and much more. This also means there are a lot of potential dangers, identity theft, harassment and exploitation to name a few. In this article we will cover some of the things to keep in mind when online to help protect yourself and others from potential problems.

Children
Banning your kids from the internet is not going to solve the problem, it’s likely they will find some other way to get online and just banning them does not teach them how to deal with problems. Most important is to teach your kids that their are dangers out there and teach them ways to avoid those problems.

A kid or teen should be very sparing with the information they share online. With as little information as the teens first and last name and the city and state they live in, some can find exactly where that teen lives, who they live with, what school they attend and more. Encourage your kids to not make their full name public and leave out pin pointing information such as town, address or even pictures of the front of their house.

Check up with your kids. As much as teens want to be treated like adults, the truth is that their judgment is not fully developed and that can lead to making decisions that seem okay to them at the time but really are not. Talk to your kids, even if they seem annoyed there could come a time when they need someone and they need to know that you will be there. If your child wants to be on a social site then you should have the ability to check out that social site. Social sites are for meeting and connecting with people and are very public, that means that you should be able to view it also. If your kid cannot agree to that then they should not be on a public social site.

Social Sites
There are many social sites out there, all intended for you to reconnect and keep in touch with your friends. However it is pretty common to “friend” people that we don’t know or don’t know as well as we should. So maybe you might have gone to school with that kid back in fifth grade but now they are an adult, do you know what they have been up to in the passed time? They may have many run-ins with the law that you don’t know about. On social sites you are encouraged to add lots of personal information, including; city and state, email address, phone number and even your location at that moment. So now you have added lots of personal information, friended people you only slightly know and post that you are going out with friends for dinner. You have just notified strangers that your house is empty and available for robbing. You’ve even given your number so they can check up to make sure you are still out.

Remember that social sites are just that, social, many people have full access to anything you you share online. Certain information like your address and phone number are not needed on a social site, and while you want to post that you are going on vacation or out for a night on the town, resist the urge to say when you will be out or wait till afterwards to tell all about your plans to be away from home.

Consider a second email that is used for everything other then your trusted family and friends. This email would have none of your personal information attached to it in anyway. Never use your company email or information online, not only could potential problems cause you to lose your job but that only gives problem people another way to harass or keep track of you. Also don’t be afraid to use the block feature to anyone that makes you feel uncomfortable or feel worried. Usually the person is not notified that they have been blocked, just that you no longer answer them.

General Safety
Before ever entering any financial information always be certain that you really are on the site that you think you are. It is common for identity thieves to create sites that look just like a site you know, such as paypal, in order to get you to give them your login information. Be sure that the address bar displayed the name of the site that you think you are on, before entering anything personal.

If you are running an operating system that allows for viruses be sure to use a good anti-virus software and consider things like firewalls before doing things like online banking. Or switch to an operating system that does not allow viruses to work on your computer, such as Linux or Mac.

While most will say never meet in person someone that you have “met” online, with as common as internet dating is now it really is not feasible to say never meet people. However there are some precautions that are very important to do before a meeting. No matter your age, if you are going to meet someone that you have only spoken to online be certain to meet at a public and neutral location such a restaurant in a nearby town. Consider taking someone with you, they don’t have to be a “third wheel” they could enjoy a meal at a nearby table but that provides a witness and buffer in case the person you are meeting makes you feel nervous once you meet them. Whether you take someone with you or not be certain that someone knows where you are going and knows when to expect you to return. That way if something happens there is someone to quickly sound an alarm and start working to make sure you are safe and alright.

Now days most everyone of all ages is online at least occasionally. While we can find many great uses for the things on the internet there are many potential dangers for anyone of any age. With just a little precautionary work we can avoid finding ourselves in bad or undesirable situations.

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