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The Door That is Not Locked

The Internet is a door that is not locked, which is both thrilling and terrifying to many users. The open door allows us to surf, chat, shop, create, share, play games, find information and get news. Because there are so many fantastic things to do on-line, it is a great way to spend time! However, there are some users who want to ruin our fun. It would be great if we could simply close the door on them; but, in reality, we cannot. There are some things that we can do to protect ourselves though, and if we take these steps, the Internet can remain the door that is not locked.

More importantly, we also have to think before we act when online. We might post something and we shouldn’t have; however, once it’s done, we cannot undo it. Unfortunately, we are our own worst enemies when we do something like that. The best practice is to think twice before hitting the send button. Sometimes we have to close the door that is not locked in order to protect ourselves.

Important Internet Safety Information for Adults and Teenagers

Personal Information:

The RCMP recommend that you minimize the amount of personal information you provide. You should never post your full name, date of birth, home address, telephone number, social insurance number or anything that be of interest to a financial or sexual predator. You should also be careful when posting personal interests or hobbies on profiles or blogs as someone may use this information inappropriately.

Be aware of social networking sites’ default security settings. Some of these default settings allow anyone to see your personal information. By changing your settings to the highest possible security settings, you can protect yourself more effectively.

Use impersonal nicknames that do not give your identity away. For example, brown_eyed_girl12 is not a good name because it gives too much information away; if you used it, chances are you are the brown-eyed girl who is 12 years old. Users should not choose nicknames that are sexualized or derogatory either. Your nickname should not be offensive.

Password Security:

The most common way that hackers access personal information is by guessing weak passwords. The best way to stop this is by “engineering” a strong password. Strong passwords are: longer, usually 10 – 15 letters; combine a base word phrase’s acronym and a computer program together; and are scrambled. Eg. A base word phrase might be: “Honey Badger Doesn’t Care”; its acronym is hbdc. Now add a computer program to it. At this point your password is hbdcGmail. It still isn’t long enough though, but you can scramble it by adding in some numbers and symbols. Now your “strong” password is: 2hbdcGm@il5. All of this hard work is for naught, if you share it! Never share it with anyone, not even your best friend. About.com has a useful article titled “5 Steps to a Good Password,” if you would like more information about engineering safe passwords.

Photo or Video Sharing

Sharing photos and videos with family and friends is a great way of letting them know what is going on in your life. However, photo sharing does raise some concerns. Once you send a photo or video, it is out of your control. A private photo can be “forwarded” to anyone via a contact list on a phone, or saved and downloaded if posted on-line. Photos can also be manipulated so that you look like you are in a compromising situation. Once you post a photo of yourself or your friends, anyone can see it! The same applies to videos. Think about your reputation; what you say or do can affect how others view you. Acting before you think can give others the wrong impression and attract unwanted attention. Ask yourself this important question: Would I want my family or my employer (now or in the future) to see this picture?

Cyberbullying

The word “cyberbullying” has been used a lot lately. What is does “cyberbullying” mean? Most definitions suggest that cyberbullying is the use of technology to harass, threaten, embarrass, or target another person. If someone is using technology to “hurt” you or others you know here are some steps that you can and should take:

  • Report inappropriate comments to on-line site administrators. (Did you know that both Facebook and YouTube have help centres that encourage you to report inappropriate activity? To reach the Facebook help centre, click here. To reach the YouTube help centre, click here.)
  • Report on-line bullying to your Internet or cellphone provider. They have a legal agreement called an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) which all users must follow or they lose their privileges.
  • Report harassment and/or on-line threats to the local police.
  • Leave an on-line “space” or activity immediately if you feel threatened or harassed.
  • Block sender’s messages.
  • Save harassing messages.
  • Talk to someone as soon as possible.

Did you know that only 8% of teens report incidents of bullying? Many teens don’t report the incidents because they fear losing Internet or phone privileges.

Not reporting or taking action against cyberbullying is like saying you support it. Speak out or take action immediately.

Sexting

Another issue that has been getting a lot of media attention is “sexting”. According to Wikipedia, sexting is the act of sending sexually explicit messages or photographs, primarily between mobile phones. Why do some people sext? Well, some people participate in sexting in lieu of sexual activity, or to show interest in a person they hope to date. Some even use it to prove intimacy and trust in a relationship. Others use it to mimic sexy poses seen in magazines or on television shows. For others, it’s like a game of truth or dare. They are “dared” to sext. It may seem like harmless fun at the time, except that such images or messages can be easily forwarded or posted on-line. Once you send a sexy image or text, it is out of your hands. You no longer control it; someone else does.

The door that is not locked is tempting. It sets us free but also imprisons us. If we wish to remain free, we must learn to use the Internet wisely and safely.

Be wise; be safe.

References:

Fischer, E. (2012). Five Internet Safety Tips for Children and Teens. All the Geekiness – Father Geek. Retrieved October 29, 2012, from http://fathergeek.com/high-five/five-internet-safety-tips-for-children-and-teens/

Internet Safety Tools for Parents: What can parents of 13- to 15-year-old children do to help keep them safe? (2011). The Door That’s Not Locked. Retrieved October 28, 2012, from www.thedoorthatsnotlocked.ca/pdfs/sid_brochure_13-15.pdf

Scams Protection – A Student Practical Guide – Royal Canadian Mounted Police. (2007). Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Retrieved October 29, 2012, from http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/scams-fraudes/student-etudiant-guide-eng.htm#social

Strategies for Fighting Cyberbullying. (n.d.). MediaSmarts. Retrieved October 29, 2012, from http://mediasmarts.ca/cyberbullying/strategies-fighting-cyberbullying

Interacting Online. (n.d.). RCMP: Crime Prevention Services. Retrieved October 28, 2012, from deal.org/the-knowzone/internet-safety/interacting-online/

 

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