Remain anonymous. You don’t want to give out your private information online. This can include, full name, address, social security number, passwords, etc. Most companies know how sensitive this information is and will not ask you to provide this information online. If a company asks you to provide your personal information online it is a red flag that they may not be credible.
Many web experts suggest that you keep online relationships just that, online. But if you plan to meet someone online in person for the first time there are some precautions you can take. Meet in a public place, tell someone close to you where you will be and when you plan to return and have a safety plan to leave if things become dangerous or uncomfortable. Remember, just because someone presents themselves one way online, doesn’t mean that the same is true in real life.
Cyberbullying refers to cruel, harassing, threatening or bullying messages sent to you online or via apps. These messages might be from people you know or complete strangers. They can be bothersome and, in some cases, even frightening.
ConnectSafetly.org has some great tips to remember when dealing with cyberbullying:
1. Know that it’s not your fault. If someone is repeatedly cruel to you, that is bullying and you should not blame yourself. You do not deserve to be treated cruelly.
2. Don’t respond or retaliate. Sometimes a reaction is exactly what aggressors are looking for because they think it gives them power over you. Don’t empower a bully by responding. As for retaliating, getting back at the bully by turning into one really doesn’t solve the problem and can result in escalation. If you can, remove yourself from the situation, thereby taking back your power.
3. Save the evidence. The good news is that bullying online or on phones can be captured, saved, and shown to someone that can help. You can save that evidence in case things escalate (visit ConnectSafetly.org/cyberbullying for instructions on how to capture screens on phones and computers).
4. Tell the person to stop. This is your choice. Don’t do it if you don’t feel completely comfortable doing so. Make your position clear: you will not stand for this treatment anymore. You may need to practice beforehand a bit with someone you trust.
5. Reach out for help – especially if the behavior is really getting to you. You deserve backup. See if there is someone who can listen, help you process what is going on, and help you work through it.
6. Use available tech tools. Most social media apps and services allow you to block the person. Whether the harassment is in an app, texting, comments or tagged photos, you can block the person in whatever service or device they are using. You can also report the problem to the service. If you are getting threats of physical harm, you should consider reporting it to your local authorities.
7. Protect your accounts. Don’t share your passwords with anyone and password protect your phone so that you can’t be impersonated.
Spam and Unknown Files
Abusers can use the Internet to harass their victims. Not just to send messages but also by adding the victim to spam lists. Spam messages are annoying and frustrating. But spam blockers are available that can help keep your inbox from getting clogged.
As a general Internet safety rule, if you don’t recognize the sender of a document, link or file, don’t open it. Opening and/or downloading it can cause viruses or other harmful programs to be installed on your device.
Mobile Phone Safety
Share with care. Use the same considerations when posting things from your phone as you would from your computer. Once posted, text, photos, and video are tough to remove. They can be copied, saved and pasted elsewhere, and are pretty much on the Internet forever. Be aware of people randomly taking pictures in public places and gatherings. You have the right to let them know that you do not wish to have your picture taken and do not want to be tagged in their social-network photos.
Know what your apps know. Pay attention to any permissions apps request as you install them. If an app asks permission to access your contact list, location, camera, call log, microphone or messages consider if the app really needs the information to work. When in doubt, consider withholding permission or not using that app.
Share location carefully. Many social apps now come with the option to share your location. If you choose to share your location make sure your privacy settings are set so that only those who know you in person can see where you are.
Texting and Sexting
Don’t text and drive. Texting while driving can significantly increase the risk of a crash or near-crash. Don’t try to text or navigate your phone while driving. Pull over if you need to use your phone or use a hands free device. Remember no text is worth death or serious injury. It can wait.
If you take or send nude photos of yourself or others with your phone you must make sure that you trust the person you are sending them to will not share it with others without your permission. Even if you are using an app that claims that the picture disappears, it can always be saved via a screenshot. Also consider that your phone may be lost, which could enable others to view your photos without your permission.
Remember, you don’t have to give in to pressure when someone asks you to send a nude photo. If finding the words to tell that person no is difficult the “Send This Instead” app can help you get your message across. (http://sendthisinstead.com/).
Warning: If you are receiving, saving or forwarding nude photos of an individual who is not 18 years of age or above you could be charged with the possession or distribution of child pornography. When in doubt stop receiving and delete.
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