How To Stay Safe Online
July 13, 2004
The Internet can be a wonderful tool. You can make websites, talk on message boards, have private journals, meet new friends and find information. Then there are those that use the Internet for evil like stalking, harassment, etc. However, there are ways for you to stay safe online.
Because you don’t see them, people may not be what they seem. It’s very easy for people to act like someone else. Be aware that you will be lied to online, thus you can't believe everything people will tell you.
There are people who actually say the truth. If you keep chatting with people for a while you'll soon realize who is weird and who is normal. Trust your instincts. If you get weirded out or get a bad vibe, it’s best to cut off contact from them. For this reason it’s best to have an email address just for online message boards and online buddies.
Don't share personal information even if you've known them for a while. Don't reveal your name, address, phone number, street, work, school or places that are near your house. Don't even reveal stores or places you go to, especially when they're mom and pop stores. Don't use your real name as a screen name. If someone online pressures you for a name or any other personal information, then it’s best to stop talking to them. Don't even feel guilty for not sharing anything. There is a reason why people use nicknames and screen names online.
Protect yourself by installing Antivirus Software like McAfee or Norton Antivirus on your computer. If you have broadband be sure to install a firewall since it’s easy for hackers to target high-speed Internet users. I highly recommend Ghostsurf Pro since it covers your tracks, disables spy ware and makes sure that online strangers and companies can't track you. You can check them online at www.ghostsurf.net.
If you are harassed online, sometimes its best to get another screen name and cut off contact with your harasser. Only tell your new username to people that you trust online, if someone spills the beans then it may be best to take an Internet break. If you still need help, there is a wonderful organization that can help keep you safe. Cyberangels.org is a non-profit website that works with your local police to stop online harassment. If you are ever harassed and feel threatened by anyone online, do not hesitate to seek help from cyberangels. It’s been featured in magazines such as Readers Digest.
If you have a pen pal that you write and send things to or if you shop online, it’s best to get a P.O. Box at your local post office since people will be sending you things and vice versa. If you shop online, stick with reliable websites like Amazon and eBay. Remember the people that you’re dealing with on the Internet are strangers—you don't know anything about them. It may seem like a handful, but it is better to be safe than sorry.
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