The internet offers the opportunity to stay in contact with your family and friends and to meet new people from all over the world. Email, chat, instant messaging, social networking sites and lots of other fun and exciting tools allow you to communicate with whoever you want. But it is really important that you use all of these tools in a responsible way.
Don’t forget the do’s and don’ts of online communication. This means that you should treat others on the web as you would want to be treated yourself. It is very easy to hide behind your screen: don’t let yourself be tempted to bully or harass someone, or create a false identity.
It’s always fun to share stories, pictures, movies or blogs posts online with your friends. Just remember that spreading material on the web normally means that you lose control over it. The information could be there forever and will be there for anyone to see.
Remember, even if you have deleted online content, it may already have been downloaded by other users who could then post it elsewhere. The internet is an endless online universe where information can circulate forever and never really disappear. Respecting others means you have to respect their privacy too: never post online information about others that you wouldn’t like to be spread about yourself. You should also always ask permission if you want to publish someone’s name, personal information or image on the web.
Pictures can travel around the world in seconds and can stay online forever. By sharing your pictures only with family and friends you know you can trust, you can control what happens to your images and prevent them from being misinterpreted, viewed or manipulated by someone with bad intentions.
Making your online profile private is a good start, but if you have hundreds of ‘friends’ then you trust your privacy to the integrity of people you don’t even know – a risky business!
Choose carefully who you talk to in private chat room, on your instant messaging account and on your social networking sites. The internet is an excellent way to meet new friends, but unfortunately people with bad intentions also use it to contact young children and teenagers. The safest thing to do is to decline requests from people you don’t know in your ‘real life’.
If one of your online contacts, or indeed a stranger, starts bothering you with unwanted messages or bullies you online, don’t put up with it! When someone sends you annoying or upsetting messages, just block them. If someone sends you annoying or upsetting emails, don’t reply, but make sure that you keep the emails as evidence should the situation escalate. Always remember to tell someone if you are uncomfortable with what you see online.
Be careful what information you put out. As you already know, when you are online it is easy to lie about your identity. Some people will try to prey on vulnerable or unsuspecting ‘victims’ and might try to become your online friend in an attempt to meet you. It’s best to refuse meeting people you do not know in ‘real life’, but if you really think you can trust an online friend who wants to meet you, tell your parents, meet the person in a public place and make sure you are accompanied by an adult you trust and who can protect you. No real friend with honest intentions would have a problem with these conditions. It’s only a problem for people who have something to hide.
Webcams are fun tools to use when you are communicating with friends and family, especially with people who are far away or who you haven’t seen for a while. Use your webcam in a responsible way, to avoid others being able to record compromising or embarrassing images of you and to spread them all over the internet.
The use of webcams allows people to ‘enter’ your private and secure surroundings. Only use your webcam with people you know and trust and always disconnect or disable it when you are not using it, so that no unwanted images are recorded.
The more anonymous you are the less vulnerable you are to people with bad intentions.
Remember, internet is public space and anyone including a complete stranger will read what you write. Therefore do not overshare information about yourself if you do not want some people to read it.
Choose your friends wisely. Use your privacy settings; adjust your account settings so that only approved friends can instant message you.