The Brief: Here are some basic tips and guidelines to promote internet safety and privacy in a digital age.
With things like phishing, V-Bucks scams, fake news, swatting, and doxxing, social media and the internet are, unfortunately, hosts to illegal, and dangerous occurrences which can have negative effects online and IRL. Common sense, precautionary measures, and communication between children and parents can help facillitate internet safety for minors.
Yes, the phrase “stranger danger” may sound somewhat reactionary. However, as there are more and more ways for adults and children to interact anonymously and with strangers online, it is important to consider the associated risks and how to mitigate them. It’s never completely safe to meet up with someone you’ve only met online, even when precautions such as meeting in a public place are taken. Minors are not allowed on dating and hookup apps such as Tinder, Bumble, and Grindr due to these risks and the fact that the age of consent is between 16 and 18 in the US, depending on state laws. Parties organized on Instagram and other social media apps can encourage teenagers to go to houses of people they’ve never met. These should be avoided except in cases where they personally know the host and have parental permission.
If teenagers do choose to communicate directly with strangers online, it is essential that they keep conversations to general topics, rather than personal or private information, and that they watch out for cyberbullying.
The best way to prevent cyberbullying is to not engage in any cyberbullying, hate speech, online harassment, or malicious trolling. If everyone did this, there would be no cyberbullying. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that everyone will follow such guidelines. Children, teenagers, and adults can report cyberbullying when they see it or are subjected to it to site administrators. Children and teens should also report online harassment to parents and/or teachers, whether the harasser is a stranger or acquaintance. It’s also important to avoid engaging with cyberbullies, which can lead to heated arguments, more hurt feelings, and more bullying.
Anonymous messaging and feedback apps like Sarahah and Lipsi can foster cyberbullying. As these apps ask users to semi-anonymously tell each other “what they really think,” there is room for comments to turn offensive and hostile. It’s best to avoid these apps entirely, as they create environments that encourage excessive criticisms, if not outright harassment.
Keep Private Information Private
One’s full name, house address, street, neighborhood, school name, phone number, and other personal details should never be shared publicly online or privately with strangers. All of this information can be used against someone to hack their account, impersonate them, or extort them. Strong Passwords can also help keep accounts secure.
It’s illegal and highly risky for minors to send or receive nude pictures of each other. Not only can these images be used for harassment and extortion, but people under the age of 18 can also be charged with the distribution and/or possession of child pornography, even from sending or receiving nudes ‘consensually’ to their boyfriend or girlfriend.
All social media should be set to the strictest privacy settings. This must often be done manually, as many accounts are automatically set to private. Some unlikely apps, like Venmo, have social media functions that users must set to private as well.
In order to avoid scams, it’s important to always be on the lookout and to be especially careful when spending money online. Not allowing children to spend money online without explicit parental permission lets parents keep track of how much money their kids are spending, and to ensure that they’re not falling for any financial scams.
People of all ages should watch out for downloads that might contain viruses or malware – especially illegal downloads – and for other sneaky scams like Fortnite V-Bucks scams or Mystery Boxes.
Ultimately, the best internet safety method is for kids and parents to talk openly about what kids are doing online, who they’re talking to, and what issues they run into. It’s key for parents to understand what their children are doing in order to set appropriate rules and guidelines for online activity. Let StayHipp be a resource to help bridge knowledge gaps about technology, social media, and pop culture between generations.
For more internet safety tips, check out Common Sense Media’s guide.