Sometimes we say or do things online we would never imagine doing in person. The sense of anonymity we get from the internet can make it easier to try out different things. But it’s important to know that how you present yourself, in the real world or online, has consequences.
Sometimes when you’re using social media sites like Facebook or Twitter, you may get messages that are mean, harassing or demeaning. These messages can come from people you may or may not know. Either way, this type of message says a lot more about the character of the person sending it than about the person receiving it.
Try to ignore this cyberbullying and the person who is doing it. BUT if you’re being harassed (i.e. the messages or images you are receiving are dirty, indecent or obscene and the person sending them is being abusive, annoying, harassing or threatening you), report it to your Internet service provider and the local police department. This is a crime under federal law. If cyberbullying or harassment takes place at school, or involves other students from your school, you should also report it to school authorities.
It’s important to remember that very few things you post online are completely anonymous or private. Even some things that don’t seem like a big deal – like posting what school you go to or where you plan to hang out this weekend – could put you at risk.
Someone can hurt or exploit you…
- Because of information you post or someone else posts about you online
- Because of something you do or somewhere you go as a result of what you encounter online
Talking to people online can also make you feel like you know them better than you actually do. No matter how long you’ve been talking to them or how “safe” they seem, meeting up with someone you know from online is not a healthy choice.
The internet also has people tapped in who may try to steal your money and/or identity – or that of your family. Keep your eyes open. When promised you can lose a lot of weight quickly or make a lot of money in a short period of time, take a closer look. Generally, these promises that seem way too good to be true, are.
As a rule of thumb, don’t share personal information – like your credit card number, address, etc. – with unverified websites. You may find yourself in the middle of a scam.
The Internet is likely an important part of your child’s social life and even their schoolwork. But there are many risks they face online. Communicating with your child and setting boundaries for their Internet usage will help keep them safe.
When your teen visits chat rooms or social networking websites, they can be exposed to inappropriate information and images. Strangers can make advances to your child through instant messenger and even their cell phones. Make sure your child knows that it’s okay to say no in these situations. If they are uncomfortable, they should end the conversation immediately or leave the webpage in question.
One of the most serious ways your child can come into harm’s way online is if they give out their personal information. If given to the wrong person, it can put them in physical danger. Talk with your kids about the information that they post on their websites and give to friends online. No one wants to think about what could happen if the wrong person approached your child online, but consider these guidelines to help keep them safe:
- Avoid giving out information about where you live, especially to strangers.
- Be careful with the pictures you post; they may attract unwanted attention.
- Never agree to meet a stranger.
- Be careful not to discuss where you go on a daily basis.
With all the pop-up ads and spam email received on a daily basis, it can be hard to recognize each time that you might be scammed online. Talk to your teen about keeping their personal information personal.
If they are allowed to make purchases online, help them to look for secure payment sites. Teach them about “phishing,” the practice of illegally gaining sensitive information, like usernames, passwords and credit card details, by masquerading as a trustworthy group.
If your child is online, there is always the possibility that someone will send them mean, harassing or demeaning messages. Let your teen know that it’s not okay for people to do this. Teach them that they should end contact with the offender immediately.
If the messages are persistent or if they contain indecent or obscene material, you should consider reporting them to your Internet service provider and the local police department. They may be considered harassment, which is a federal offense.