How to Protect Yourself When You Use The Internet

The Internet has opened up a whole new world to people of all ages and abilities. Real-time communication with friends in all parts of the world is now commonplace and easily carried out with e-mail, chat, and other Web-based tools. Where children a few years ago would tie up the family telephone chatting with their friends, they're now online for hours chatting in real-time with messenger tools and in chat rooms. Likewise, research that used to be carried out with the family's encyclopedia books has been replaced with the vast depository of information available on the World Wide Web.


The Internet is a human creation made up of folks from all walks of life. Some of those people you wouldn't want to leave alone with children. And yet many children are out there playing in a virtual playground, unaware of the real-world dangers that exist.


On the Internet, no one knows your age, gender, address, phone number, or other personal information unless you reveal that directly or indirectly. While it could be fun to take on the persona of someone you are not and pretend with someone else via e-mail or chat, it can have grave consequences. This is especially true if a virtual dialogue is followed by an in-person meeting.


Useful guidelines for safely surfing the Internet include:

  • Don't give out personal information (name, age, address, phone number, social security number) to strangers.
  • Never meet in person with an online stranger unless you get your parent's permission and have them come with you.
  • Never invite a stranger to come to meet you in person or call you at your home.
  • Don't open attachments from strangers (or friends) without scanning them with an up-to-date anti-virus program.
  • Tell your parents right away if online interaction makes you feel uncomfortable or scared.
  • Use an online name that doesn't reveal your gender or age. A bad choice would be Mary_12; better names are "oaktree99", "grasshopper", and other gender and age-neutral monikers.
  • Use passwords that meet the highest standards of privacy. Avoid using common words, pet names, or common word combinations. Instead, use combinations of upper and lowercase letters/characters along with numbers. And, don't give your password out to anyone.
  • Set up a separate e-mail account for times that you must provide an e-mail address to then be able to trap unwanted "spam". Several free services like protonmail are ideal for this. Be sure to set the options for maximum privacy when creating such an account.
  • Use a firewall program, which restricts the flow into and out of a computer connected to a network. This will minimize the threat of intrusion, especially if you have a cable or DSL account that is always connected to the Internet.
  • Maintain operating system updates to close vulnerabilities as they become known.


Educating Children/ Teens

Your children should be educated about the dangers and risks of internet predators. It is important to tell your children not to meet strangers online and to never speak to strangers you don't know. Talk about the importance of not sharing identifying, sensitive, or detailed information on the internet. Make sure that they are aware that what is posted online may not be accurate. If they don't control their privacy settings, anyone can see what they post online. Spend time online with your child, get to know their favorite sites, and their passwords, limit their internet time, and place the computer in a common room. Regularly review the emails and computer settings of your child. Keep track of who your children are talking to online.


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Parental Controls To limit access to secure websites

Parents should consider using parental controls from their internet service provider. If you have any questions, contact your internet provider. Make sure you research all options for parental controls.


Personal Information

Before you share any information online or post it to an email, think twice. Anyone can see what you post online. You are at the greatest risk online if you share personal information with people you don't know. It is dangerous to share sensitive information online, such as your address and phone number with family members, car information, passwords and credit history, credit status, and social security numbers. You can remove your name from any websites that share your personal data (including your address, phone number, social media avatars, and photos) with anyone online.


Public Computers

Do not type sensitive information on public computers such as those found in public libraries or internet cafes. These computers may have spyware that records every keystroke. You never know who might be monitoring your activities. Do not select the feature that automatically signs you on to email, or click any box to "Remember my Password", on websites.



Photos taken with smartphones include the GPS coordinates in the photo. This will enable others to locate the exact location of the photo and could be used to locate you. This is a problem when you post photos on social media sites. If you don't use privacy settings to restrict who can see the photos, they may be copied or altered and shared with others without your consent.


Phishing and Malware, Emails, and Beware of unsolicited emails

You can be infected by viruses or fraud by clicking on links and downloading attachments. While some viruses can damage your computer, others may be able to steal your identity and personal information. If you receive emails that appear to be from your bank or any other financial institution, it is important to be skeptical. Scammers may use email links to direct you to a website or to provide you with a number to call. Email links can be misleading.


You might try to create your own link to banks and companies, or even look up the number on the phone. Beware of scam emails and websites that ask you to share your personal information. It is possible to set up a website that appears legitimate quickly. Legitimate customer service representatives won't ask for passwords or personal information. Avoid responding to unsolicited emails, don't click on any links, and be careful if you are asked for urgent information. You might consider downloading or purchasing a good antivirus program with spyware protection.



Updates are essential to keep your computer's operating systems, browsers, antivirus, and another software current with the most recent security patches. For additional information visit



Strong passwords should contain 10 characters, as well as combinations of lower and upper case letters, symbols, numbers, and symbols. Don't include any personal information. If sensitive information is concerned, you should change your password every 90 days. Passwords should never be left near your computer or visible to others. Different passwords are needed for different online activities. If one password is compromised, then all passwords will be compromised. Never share your password. Never share your password if you are given the option to create a password hint for an account.



Avoid meeting people in person who you have met online or via email. Some people are not honest about their identity, gender, or intentions. Do your research with public records. If possible, seek out reputable references. Never go on your own to meet someone. Let others know where you're going and make sure you have your cell phone handy.



Use webcams with care These webcams can be remotely turned on and high-jacked. This allows others to illegally listen to and view individuals without their knowledge. You might consider turning them off and disconnecting them when they are not being used. Talk to your children about the dangers of webcams.



Be careful when connecting to unsecured networks with your mobile device or laptop. Computer hackers can access your computer files and intercept your internet traffic. For additional security, consider password-protecting your wireless home network and installing a personal firewall program. For additional information visit



Avoid shopping on websites that don't offer secure checkout using "HTTPS." Also, pay attention to the address line on the checkout page where you will need to enter your credit card details. You should shop elsewhere if the page doesn't have an "S", after "HTTP", in the address line. Some information transmitted via HTTP pages uses plain text, which can be intercepted and used by hackers.



Avoid listing and selling items on local classifieds or online. Never meet someone by yourself. Consider meeting someone in public places, such as a bank or post office, rather than in your car. Don't post photos from your smartphone for online ads. This could lead to you sharing your home address and criminal information.


Following these guidelines will not guarantee safety on the Internet, but they may help safeguard you and your family.


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