Online Safety Tips from a Teen

April 27, 2015

In March, There was a #DearMe tag circulating around YouTube, in which creators were invited to post a video to their younger selves and give some advice. The videos ranged from humorous to serious, but the underlying message was the same: we all have things we may have done differently if we’d known then what we know now.

In light of that, here are a few tips I would give to my younger self regarding social media.

Generally, be sensible about what you post and share online. Treat other people as you would like to be treated and respect the etiquette of the different websites.

Password Protection

Create a password that is easy to remember, but not necessarily easy for people to guess, add numbers and capital letters to make it extra safe, if possible create a few variations to use on different accounts so that if someone guesses your password, they aren’t able to get into everything.

Ensure that the password for your email account is the most highly secured, if people have access to this, they can use the ‘forgot password’ function and access your other accounts. Take this into consideration and think about using websites such as Norton’s Identity Safe Password Generator to help you create a strong password.

Also do not give your password to anyone else, there’s no need for anyone else to be going on your account at any time. By trusting someone with your password you are opening yourself up to risk if they abuse your trust. If someone else posts on your account, it looks like it came from you, and will be on the internet forever.

Although it may seem amusing at the time for your friends to post things from your account, the posts can be offensive and may come back to haunt you later on. Remember that everything posted on the internet, even when removed can be traced at any time.

You don’t need to be friends with everyone

If you don’t actually know a person, there’s no reason for you to be friends on Facebook. It may seem cool at the time to have 1000 friends on Facebook, but in reality this is unnecessary and can be unsafe.

Adding everyone you come across only congests your news feed and puts you at risk, as you don’t necessarily know who is behind the accounts. On the flip side, your information is also going to be shared with hundreds of people, and if you don’t know them this may not be a good thing, especially when it comes to your location or personal information.

Try to think of it as; if you saw them in the street would you speak to them? And if the answer is no, should you be friends with them on Facebook?

Internet Etiquette

When considering how appropriate something is to post, on any social media, particularly somewhere like Instagram where there are photographs included, ask yourself, “Would I want my parents to see this?” Although you may be in school and not thinking of the larger picture, photographs, tweets and statuses remain part of your digital footprint forever once they’ve been posted online. If your content isn’t something you’d feel comfortable showing your parents, why do you feel comfortable posting it online?

By not posting things your family wouldn’t want to see, you’re also protecting your future. According to a study carried out in 2014 by GoGulf, two in five employers use social media to screen candidates. Of these, 43% of employers said that they found information online that helped them decide not to hire a particular candidate.

Generally, be sensible about what you post and share online. Treat other people as you would like to be treated and respect the etiquette of the different websites.

Keep it clean

It is easy to not even notice when you’ve been inappropriate, as it is so quick and easy to send a tweet these days. Run a check on your page with tools such as Social Santa where you can see if you’re on the ‘naughty or nice’ list, and see a record of any profanity or inappropriate content you’ve posted online. This website highlights the bad posts for you and allows you to delete them, so you may consider using this when cleaning up your social media pages for University or job applications.

Somethings are better left unsaid

Use the private messaging facility! Somethings do not need to be posted publicly, and wherever possible send messages privately. Consider this when sharing personal information such as your mobile number, but also when speaking about people or sensitive topics. Posting something about someone either directly or indirectly can be seen as bullying, and if you feel the need to address a personal situation, ensure that you do this privately.

Be Safe

Remember if you see something you are not comfortable with, report it immediately or tell someone about it, just like you would in the real world. If you see something report it immediately. Facebook, Youtube and Twitter all have facilities to report posts or specific people. If necessary, block users if they are causing you trouble. You never need to put up with abuse online any more than you would offline.

Cover image courtesy of Flickr

Written by

Carly Strange

Carly is a second year Media and Cultural Studies student at Kingston University. At FOSI, she assists with social media, communications and research.