Online Safety Tips for Teens
We’re constantly connected – whether it’s text messaging, apps, social media, online games, website or emails – and that makes us all vulnerable to thieves looking to take advantage of us when we least expect it.
Thieves will go to any length to learn about you. Asking yourself these questions will help keep your personal information safe:
- Am I posting sensitive information? This means addresses, phone numbers, your birthdate, Social Security number, driver’s license number or financial information.
- Should I share this? Be careful posting details about your life, and don’t answer questions – online or over the phone – from anyone you don’t know asking personal questions.
- What are the privacy settings on my accounts? Look through the settings of the social media you use to be sure only people you absolutely trust see your posts.
- Should I click? Unexpected links and attachments in messages might contain viruses or spyware that the sender doesn’t even know about. Check with the sender first. If you don’t know the sender, just trash the message.
- Is this site legitimate? Malicious websites can look identical to trusted sites, but the URL or email address might use a different spelling or domain (e.g., .net instead of .com). When in doubt, avoid the website until you’re 100% sure.
- Is my software up to date? Check to be sure you’re running the latest operating system, anti-virus software and web browsers.
- Is it too good to be true? Free games and other things might be tempting, but they can come at a cost to your privacy. Only download from trusted sources, even if you might have to pay.
- Are my passwords safe? Be sure your passwords include a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. Make them hard enough that someone can’t guess them, and don’t share them with anyone.
- Am I using free Wi-Fi? Many public Wi-Fi hotspots – like at libraries, coffee shops and malls – aren’t secure and might not protect your passwords, messages, photos and other date. Check with an employee before connecting.
Keep the Conversation Going
As technology becomes more sophisticated, so do the ways online thieves operate. These are just a few tips to help protect your personal information. Be sure also to talk with family, friends, other students and trusted adults about what they do to stay safe online.
Protect Yourself & Others
Harassment that happens in email, text messaging, online games or on social media is cyberbullying. It might involve trolling, rumors or photos passed around for others to see – and it can leave someone feeling angry, sad or bad.
If you think you or someone you know is the victim of cyberbullying:
- Don’t keep it a secret. Reach out to at least one person you trust, such as a close friend, family member, counselor or teacher, who can give you the help and support you need.
- Don’t be a part. Avoid forwarding messages or images, and tell others to stop. Another way is to report it to the site or network where you saw it.
- If you feel you're in immediate danger by someone else, contact your local police.
- If you or someone you know is being bullied and needs immediate help, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline online or call 1-800-273-TALK.
For more information about cyberbullying – its effects, how to prevent it and how to respond to it – visit websites like the following:
Think About What You Share
- Personal information is like money. Information about you, such as the games you play, what you search for or your favorite music, has value. Be selective with what you provide online and to whom.
- You can’t always take it back. Anything you post can be easily copied, and even if you delete it, it can live on in the internet. Consider who might see it, such as prospective colleges or employers, and how it might be perceived in the future.
- When in doubt … If you aren’t sure if you should post something, it’s probably best if you don’t. Talk to a family member or trusted adult to see if you should.