Ten tips for online safety

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Nadia Zuaiter ’17

Nadia Zuaiter '17
Nadia Zuaiter ’17

With the tap of a finger or click of a button, Convent of the Sacred Heart students connect instantaneously via tweets, snaps, posts and messages. Along with providing a rapid connection, however, social media also makes students susceptible to cyber crimes.
Ms. Katie Koestner, national lecturer and expert on student safety and teen relationship culture, visited Sacred Heart in September to speak about the dangers of social media and the significance of an online identity. With the increasing presence of technology comes the rise of cyber crimes, including identity theft, cyberbullying and fraud. Ms. Koestner’s speech explained how every person has a  “Digital Dossier” that stays with him or her forever, and that nothing posted online is private. The presentation left a lasting impression on many students.
“Ever since Katie Koestner came in to speak about your digital footprint, I have been cautious about what I post because I know now that what is online is permanent,” sophomore Maggie Davis said.
The following are a few general guidelines to preserve online decorum and remain safe from cyber danger.
1. Keep passwords private.
Although it may be tempting to trust confidants with passwords, supplying them with this information gives them access to private accounts. This power can easily be abused. Passwords protect all personal information in programs like Facebook, email, and online bank accounts. If anyone other than the primary user has the password, he or she can obtain personal information within minutes. According to the National Cyber Security Alliance, in 2011, 15 percent of Americans never checked social media privacy settings. Failure to update settings can make personal information extremely vulnerable to online hackers.
2.  Do not post locations online.
When social media users upload a picture or status to their account, there is usually a geotagging option offered to show their locations. Broadcasting current locations allows  followers to view where the user posted the status.  While it may be appealing to share a location with friends, this makes the user’s account vulnerable to privacy violation.  According to ncpc.org, users should be aware of the potential risks of posting a location.  
3.  Do not accept friend requests from strangers.
While users may be inclined to accept friend requests from distant mutual friends, it can be dangerous to allow these acquaintances access to personal information, according to huffingtonpost.com.  Accepting a friend request from someone unknown allows him or her to view the entire profile. Be sure only friends are viewing personal information.
4. Always log out of accounts.
Sometimes users log into accounts from a device that does not belong to them, and forget to log out or uncheck the “remember password” option. Neglecting to sign out gives this other person complete access to the account.
5. Never give out phone numbers or addresses to a stranger. 
According to internetsafety101.org,  21 percent of teens displayed their personal phone numbers on Facebook in 2013. Giving out such information provides a direct line to the user. This can be dangerous, since it grants access to personal information.
6. Respect others online.
Cyberbullying is an ongoing issue amongst teens. Some find it easier to speak freely while hiding behind a screen.  According to internetsafety.org, in 2009 81 percent of teens admit they believe there is a greater chance of getting away with bullying online than in person. Be sure to respect others online, and do not say things that should not be said in person. Review messages before hitting send.
7. Tell a parent or adult when a problem arises.
Potentially dangerous situations should be reported to a parent or adult right away.  According to internetsafety101.org, only 10 percent of parents with children ranging in age from 13-17 knew their child had a social media account in 2011. Informing a parent when a new social media account is created can create a dialogue between parent and child about their “Digital Dossier.”
8. Set boundaries.
Users often find undesired photos posted and tagged without consent. Making an agreement with peers that only reviewed photos will be posted ensures that this will not occur. Some sites, such as Facebook, supply an ‘approve’ option. This allows the user to view all pictures he or she is tagged in before the photos are displayed on their profiles. Account-holders should also review photos they are posting themselves. 
9. Keep personal information private.
Personal information is often displayed on a users public profile. Social media websites require a questionnaire full of personal questions to create an account. However, there is no obligation to share all the information listed. Only provide necessary information and remember that what is shared is public. Being safe and feeling secure is more important than posting personal details on a social media account.
10. Read the fine print.
Often when signing up for a new social media account, there is a section with important facts about the site. Users should skim through the entire contract before blindly accepting the Terms and Conditions. There are many liberties woven into the agreement that will be given up after pressing agree. Popular social media sites such as Facebook have a consent form that new users must agree to before creating an account. Users should read and study this contract before supplying personal information and pictures.
Following these tips will help to ensure a safe and secure Internet experience.
-Nadia Zuaiter, Staff Writer