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Protecting Yourself Online with Your PC

It’s hard to imagine life without the Internet, isn’t it? But not very long ago, almost no one had a PC, let alone a way to connect online. While online communities have offered a lot to help solve the world’s problems, they also have created new issues, not only for teens but adults, too. However, with a bit of knowledge and awareness, you can still have fun on the Internet while being safe.

Surfing the Web

Casually surfing the Internet can be a lot of fun, no matter what age you are. But it’s important to stay safe when browsing the Web. Apart from possibly running into spammy sites that carry software that can directly harm your computer, there are plenty of things online that can make you feel uncomfortable. You or your parents can set filters on your browser and your search engine to avoid finding both spam and explicit sites.

Sharing Information

No matter how you plan to connect, whether that be on a gaming platform, through instant messaging, with social media, or via any other kind of online software, you should consider what, when, and where you share. No matter what privacy settings your platform has, there is a possibility that the content will get out to an unexpectedly large group of people you might actually know in person. First of all, never share information that can enable someone to find you in real life. That includes information like your full name, address, phone number, or your current GPS location. When you’re about to share something, first, ask yourself a couple of questions: Do I want this information to show up years later? (Nothing ever really goes away online.) How will other people feel when I post that information? Am I over-sharing?

Chatting Online

When you set up an online profile in any capacity, it’s especially important to be careful with what you share. The most common ways that online predators can get to you are chat rooms and instant messaging. Children and teens can go missing after talking to the wrong person, so be careful about who you talk to and never promise to meet anyone offline. Have your parents double-check your privacy settings and your profile information with you on IM programs. Only use video chat programs like Skype if you know the person you’re communicating with in real life. If you plan to meet a longtime Internet friend through video chat, be sure that your parents know about it.

Social Media and Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying has become a huge problem in recent years. While bullies can harass you with constant texting, emailing, and calling, many of these issues begin with social media. Social media can be a lot of fun, but the environment can sometimes lead to over-sharing, which can have disastrous results. Don’t take part in bullying someone, even if everyone else is having fun with it. Tell someone! Also, if you are ever bullied online, first, find and save the evidence and bring it to a teacher or guardian. Then, you can disengage by setting privacy settings, blocking or unfriending bullies, or temporarily deleting your accounts. Sometimes, addressing the issue offline can help, but be sure to have the support of a guardian or peer before moving on to that step. In some cases, you may also be able to report the bullying to a social media site’s operators.

Gaming

Gaming communities can have the same issues as other online communities. There is still potential for predators to find you and for cyberbullying to happen. Often, in online gaming, you have the option to report someone. Xbox Live and the Playstation Network have options like this. For PC gamers, Steam and Blizzard also offer this option to users. Never agree to meet gaming friends you’ve never met offline in person without your parents’ permission, no matter how many hours you may have played together.

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