Online Safety Tips

Along with the opportunity to learn, grow and connect, communication on the internet has its challenges. Although the challenges vary, there are some common areas of concern.

“Consider the source!”

The first area is the validity of information presented online. Those who use the internet must use similar precautions to those who read a newspaper or listen to a speaker. Is the source trustworthy? Is there an agreement over time or over a number of sources? This would apply to online articles and to email communication. It also applies to chat rooms. Although many chatters are people of integrity, there are those who will share information (about a topic or about themselves) that simply is not true. Always consider the source!

Sharing personal information:

Another major area of concern has to do with sharing personal information online, whether in chat rooms, instant messaging, blogs or emails. We attempt to make the interactive areas of our sites as safe as possible. We have a Privacy Policy for information shared within our sites.

This policy cannot control the use of information which you provide to others via chat, blogs or forums. Information shared there is “public” in that other users may use or abuse the information you offer. Once you share personal contact information, be aware that we have little or no control over how someone else may respond. The best safety tip is to never share personal information until you’re quite sure that it’s safe to do so.

Hints for regaining control of your online connections:

Here are a few general tips which we would recommend if you feel you are being compromised or harassed by someone online, outside of our interactive areas. The suggestions are general in nature; we cannot troubleshoot your software or settings.

For teens and children, enlist help from your parents and/or teachers to stay safe. If you ever feel threatened or unsafe online, be sure to let them know. Many adults are willing to assist you in redrawing the boundaries when necessary.

If you are receiving unwanted emails:

  • Block the sender.
  • Do not open any additional emails from the person.
  • If necessary, you may contact your Internet Service Provider or theirs to inquire about policies on abuse of email.
  • If the problem continues, you may need to change your email address, and give the new one only to those who you consider “safe.”

If someone is harassing you on an instant messaging program:

  • Block the sender.
  • Do not respond to any further communication from the person involved.
  • Check for settings so that any IM’s from that individual are automatically rejected.
  • If necessary, check the terms of service for the IM program. There may be some built-in safeguards or limitations that will help you.
  • If the problem continues, you may need to discontinue use of that IM identity. You could open a new identity or change IM programs, and give the new information only to trusted friends online.

You may find additional ideas by doing a search for “online safety” or “internet safety.” There are also good resources at www.cyberangels.org.

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