Skip to main content
Online Safety

Online Safety

Be awesome online and in real life.

The Internet is a part of our everyday lives, whether we’re socializing with friends, applying to a school or looking for a new job. Now more than ever, it’s important to pay attention to what’s online about you and take steps to ensure a positive persona— both personally and professionally.

Check out the resources on this page to see what you can do for yourself and others to help stay safe online.

Protect what's important to you.

Reputation

Anything you post can become part of your online reputation and your online brand for the rest of your digital life. So before you post, ask yourself:

  • Could this hurt others?
  • Would I share this with my parents?
  • Could this endanger opportunities for my future?

Remember the Internet is permanent, vast and always listening. Any one of your selfies could show up at your first job interview.

Relationships

Relationships can be complicated in real life. And they can also be complicated online. You can fight with your sister over messenger, you can create a community on Tumblr, and you can find your best friend over common boards on Pinterest. Here are some tips for managing your relationships online:

  • The Internet is a great tool to stay in touch with people over long distances, like cousins on another coast or friends studying abroad.
  • Be nice to people, even if everyone else is being mean to them. Bullying is not cool in real life or online.
  • Whether you meet a new person in real life or online, strive to be safe. Protect your identity, security, and privacy, and always tell someone you trust about a new person you meet online.
  • Remember you always have the right to say “no,” to cut off contact, or to report anyone who is bothering you online.

Anything you post can become part of your online reputation and your online brand for the rest of your digital life. So before you post, ask yourself:

  • Could this hurt others?
  • Would I share this with my parents?
  • Could this endanger opportunities for my future?

Remember the Internet is permanent, vast and always listening. Any one of your selfies could show up at your first job interview.

Relationships can be complicated in real life. And they can also be complicated online. You can fight with your sister over messenger, you can create a community on Tumblr, and you can find your best friend over common boards on Pinterest. Here are some tips for managing your relationships online:

  • The Internet is a great tool to stay in touch with people over long distances, like cousins on another coast or friends studying abroad.
  • Be nice to people, even if everyone else is being mean to them. Bullying is not cool in real life or online.
  • Whether you meet a new person in real life or online, strive to be safe. Protect your identity, security, and privacy, and always tell someone you trust about a new person you meet online.
  • Remember you always have the right to say “no,” to cut off contact, or to report anyone who is bothering you online.

Privacy

Suppose you got a new car. Would you post a photo of you standing in front of your new car – with the license plate showing in the background? Or post a photo of your new driver’s license, student ID or your first credit card? Be mindful of the information that is shared on the photos, videos and status updates you post online. You could be helping someone hack your privacy and identity. Here are some tips to keep your info safe:

  • Before you hit “post,” ask yourself if you’d share that information with a stranger—this rule of thumb will help you filter out private details like your last name, contact information, school, age or date of birth.
  • Treat any pictures like an investigator or crime scene specialist, paying attention to the background, too: What personal details can you piece together about you and your friends in the image?
  • Some sites require you to fill out an extensive profile. It may seem harmless, but all that personal data can fall into the wrong hands or even get sold to scammers.
  • Be thoughtful when sites and apps you want to use ask for your full name, birth date, address, phone number or other private information. Think about whether you really want them to have that information and find out what they are going to do with it (and who else they are going to share it with) before you hand those details over.
  • Many sites allow you to limit who can see your profile, either by changing settings or requiring a password to access your content—a vital step you should take with every account. Keep in mind, too, that social media groups you join (e.g. one for your high school) may be public.
  • When in doubt, ask yourself if you’d feel comfortable posting your information in a public forum—because that’s essentially what the Internet is.

Money

Did you know that young people make up almost a third of US identity theft victims? It’s because they tend to have good credit, making them an attractive target, and they often fail to fully protect their personal details. Phishing scams—where a fraudster poses as a legitimate company to get your secret information—have become sophisticated: they may send emails asking for your username and password or direct you to a website to verify your password, all to take control of your financial identity. Here are some tips to help you protect your pocket book and credit score:

  • Real companies (like banks, online retailers and credit card companies) won’t ask for those details over email, so don’t respond—even if the email’s images and language sound official or it includes threatening messages (like “Your account will be closed!”).
  • Don't conduct financial activities on public computers. Criminals install keystroke recognition software on public computers to spy on what you type. Hackers can also log into your accounts after you’ve left the computer unless you take steps to block them. If you do go online on a public computer, like at school or the library, make sure to disable the automatic log-in feature (it’s usually a box beneath the field for your password) and log out before you leave the computer. It’s not enough to close the browser.
  • Once criminals have your username—something that is often easy to find—they try to break into your account by trying the most common passwords. Create strong passwords—ones at least eight characters long that include letters, numbers and special symbols—that don’t include personal information. (Names, birthdays, addresses and simple sequences like 12345 are some of the most typical passwords and so will be the ones fraudsters try first.) Then change your passwords regularly and create different ones for each site so all your accounts aren’t compromised if they break through your defenses.
  • Some web sites don’t use encryption software—a security measure that scrambles data as it crosses the Internet—making them vulnerable to hackers. Fraudsters may also set up a web page that looks identical to your banks or an online retailer so you’ll enter your log-in information. Make sure the web address begins with "https" (the "s" stands for “secure”) and has an icon of a closed padlock—these signs mean the site is safe. Also, be wary of links sent to you, even from a friend. Fraudsters may break into your friends’ email or social media accounts to get you to click on sites that will download malware—software that can record your sensitive information.

Suppose you got a new car. Would you post a photo of you standing in front of your new car – with the license plate showing in the background? Or post a photo of your new driver’s license, student ID or your first credit card? Be mindful of the information that is shared on the photos, videos and status updates you post online. You could be helping someone hack your privacy and identity. Here are some tips to keep your info safe:

  • Before you hit “post,” ask yourself if you’d share that information with a stranger—this rule of thumb will help you filter out private details like your last name, contact information, school, age or date of birth.
  • Treat any pictures like an investigator or crime scene specialist, paying attention to the background, too: What personal details can you piece together about you and your friends in the image?
  • Some sites require you to fill out an extensive profile. It may seem harmless, but all that personal data can fall into the wrong hands or even get sold to scammers.
  • Be thoughtful when sites and apps you want to use ask for your full name, birth date, address, phone number or other private information. Think about whether you really want them to have that information and find out what they are going to do with it (and who else they are going to share it with) before you hand those details over.
  • Many sites allow you to limit who can see your profile, either by changing settings or requiring a password to access your content—a vital step you should take with every account. Keep in mind, too, that social media groups you join (e.g. one for your high school) may be public.
  • When in doubt, ask yourself if you’d feel comfortable posting your information in a public forum—because that’s essentially what the Internet is.

Did you know that young people make up almost a third of US identity theft victims? It’s because they tend to have good credit, making them an attractive target, and they often fail to fully protect their personal details. Phishing scams—where a fraudster poses as a legitimate company to get your secret information—have become sophisticated: they may send emails asking for your username and password or direct you to a website to verify your password, all to take control of your financial identity. Here are some tips to help you protect your pocket book and credit score:

  • Real companies (like banks, online retailers and credit card companies) won’t ask for those details over email, so don’t respond—even if the email’s images and language sound official or it includes threatening messages (like “Your account will be closed!”).
  • Don't conduct financial activities on public computers. Criminals install keystroke recognition software on public computers to spy on what you type. Hackers can also log into your accounts after you’ve left the computer unless you take steps to block them. If you do go online on a public computer, like at school or the library, make sure to disable the automatic log-in feature (it’s usually a box beneath the field for your password) and log out before you leave the computer. It’s not enough to close the browser.
  • Once criminals have your username—something that is often easy to find—they try to break into your account by trying the most common passwords. Create strong passwords—ones at least eight characters long that include letters, numbers and special symbols—that don’t include personal information. (Names, birthdays, addresses and simple sequences like 12345 are some of the most typical passwords and so will be the ones fraudsters try first.) Then change your passwords regularly and create different ones for each site so all your accounts aren’t compromised if they break through your defenses.
  • Some web sites don’t use encryption software—a security measure that scrambles data as it crosses the Internet—making them vulnerable to hackers. Fraudsters may also set up a web page that looks identical to your banks or an online retailer so you’ll enter your log-in information. Make sure the web address begins with "https" (the "s" stands for “secure”) and has an icon of a closed padlock—these signs mean the site is safe. Also, be wary of links sent to you, even from a friend. Fraudsters may break into your friends’ email or social media accounts to get you to click on sites that will download malware—software that can record your sensitive information.

Anything you post can become part of your online reputation and your online brand for the rest of your digital life. So before you post, ask yourself:

  • Could this hurt others?
  • Would I share this with my parents?
  • Could this endanger opportunities for my future?

Remember the Internet is permanent, vast and always listening. Any one of your selfies could show up at your first job interview.

Relationships can be complicated in real life. And they can also be complicated online. You can fight with your sister over messenger, you can create a community on Tumblr, and you can find your best friend over common boards on Pinterest. Here are some tips for managing your relationships online:

  • The Internet is a great tool to stay in touch with people over long distances, like cousins on another coast or friends studying abroad.
  • Be nice to people, even if everyone else is being mean to them. Bullying is not cool in real life or online.
  • Whether you meet a new person in real life or online, strive to be safe. Protect your identity, security, and privacy, and always tell someone you trust about a new person you meet online.
  • Remember you always have the right to say “no,” to cut off contact, or to report anyone who is bothering you online.

Suppose you got a new car. Would you post a photo of you standing in front of your new car – with the license plate showing in the background? Or post a photo of your new driver’s license, student ID or your first credit card? Be mindful of the information that is shared on the photos, videos and status updates you post online. You could be helping someone hack your privacy and identity. Here are some tips to keep your info safe:

  • Before you hit “post,” ask yourself if you’d share that information with a stranger—this rule of thumb will help you filter out private details like your last name, contact information, school, age or date of birth.
  • Treat any pictures like an investigator or crime scene specialist, paying attention to the background, too: What personal details can you piece together about you and your friends in the image?
  • Some sites require you to fill out an extensive profile. It may seem harmless, but all that personal data can fall into the wrong hands or even get sold to scammers.
  • Be thoughtful when sites and apps you want to use ask for your full name, birth date, address, phone number or other private information. Think about whether you really want them to have that information and find out what they are going to do with it (and who else they are going to share it with) before you hand those details over.
  • Many sites allow you to limit who can see your profile, either by changing settings or requiring a password to access your content—a vital step you should take with every account. Keep in mind, too, that social media groups you join (e.g. one for your high school) may be public.
  • When in doubt, ask yourself if you’d feel comfortable posting your information in a public forum—because that’s essentially what the Internet is.

Did you know that young people make up almost a third of US identity theft victims? It’s because they tend to have good credit, making them an attractive target, and they often fail to fully protect their personal details. Phishing scams—where a fraudster poses as a legitimate company to get your secret information—have become sophisticated: they may send emails asking for your username and password or direct you to a website to verify your password, all to take control of your financial identity. Here are some tips to help you protect your pocket book and credit score:

  • Real companies (like banks, online retailers and credit card companies) won’t ask for those details over email, so don’t respond—even if the email’s images and language sound official or it includes threatening messages (like “Your account will be closed!”).
  • Don't conduct financial activities on public computers. Criminals install keystroke recognition software on public computers to spy on what you type. Hackers can also log into your accounts after you’ve left the computer unless you take steps to block them. If you do go online on a public computer, like at school or the library, make sure to disable the automatic log-in feature (it’s usually a box beneath the field for your password) and log out before you leave the computer. It’s not enough to close the browser.
  • Once criminals have your username—something that is often easy to find—they try to break into your account by trying the most common passwords. Create strong passwords—ones at least eight characters long that include letters, numbers and special symbols—that don’t include personal information. (Names, birthdays, addresses and simple sequences like 12345 are some of the most typical passwords and so will be the ones fraudsters try first.) Then change your passwords regularly and create different ones for each site so all your accounts aren’t compromised if they break through your defenses.
  • Some web sites don’t use encryption software—a security measure that scrambles data as it crosses the Internet—making them vulnerable to hackers. Fraudsters may also set up a web page that looks identical to your banks or an online retailer so you’ll enter your log-in information. Make sure the web address begins with "https" (the "s" stands for “secure”) and has an icon of a closed padlock—these signs mean the site is safe. Also, be wary of links sent to you, even from a friend. Fraudsters may break into your friends’ email or social media accounts to get you to click on sites that will download malware—software that can record your sensitive information.

Tips for online safety

Tip - Carefully select the pictures you share. A simple photo can ruin your reputation. Hi, What's your name? What a creep! Tip - If something makes you uncomfortable, even if you met in real life, cut off contact. Hehehe... Tip - Keep your password secret, even from friends. I can't wait to go to this concert with you! Wait, is that web site secure? Tip - Make sure the url begins with https (the s stands for secure) before buying anything online; otherwise, hackers can steal your credit card details.
Expand

Take a quiz on Online Bullying

What potential online risk concerns you the most?

See how your answer compares.

What is the greatest benefit the Internet has brought to your life?

See how your answer compares.

Did you know?

  • 16,300

    years

    of estimated time that people around the world lost in 2013 repairing online damage to their personal reputations

  • $1.4 billion

    of estimated worldwide financial losses in 2013 to repair online damage to personal reputations

  • $4.6
    billion

    estimated lost worldwide due to damage to professional reputation

  • less than 20%

    of respondents take active steps to edit or remove online information that might impact their reputations

  • 31%

    of those surveyed who take the time to take the latest info for protecting their reputations online

Which social media cliché are you?

Take the quiz!

Socialize Better

Play Safer

How many of these social personalities have you come across?

Selfie-Centered

Selfie-Centered

"People who take daily or almost daily selfies, usually with their head positioned at the exact same angle."

Mommarazzi

Mommarazzi

"Parents who only post pictures of their kids and post frequently. Often over sharing information about bodily functions."

One Upper

One Upper

"People who always seem to have "more" of whatever you post – whether adventure, material items, drama…."

Positivity Police

Positivity Police

"That one person you can always rely on to see and “Like” whatever you post."

Team Emo

Team Emo

"People who post somber comments about their emotional state, fishing for someone to reach out and ask what happened."

Soap Boxing Champion

Soap Boxing Champion

Those who treat social media like a podium to release their political rants, religious views or personal philosophies.

#Hashtag Hyper

#Hashtag Hyper

"People who put a million hashtag words on their posts and photos."

Click Collectors

Click Collectors

"The people who befriend others just to raise their number of friends."

Pin Head

Pin Head

"People who never miss an opportunity to "check in" with a location tag. The people who only post pictures of their fabulous trips, showing of their national geographic style photography skills."

Meme Team Captain

Meme Team Captain

The people obsessed with posting memes or who only re-post images, stores or videos created by other people.

Play-by-Playah

Play-by-Playah

"The people who post every second of their day, like their crammed bus ride or walking behind a crazy person."

N00bie

N00bie

"People who are new to social media, and post all the wrong types of things in all the wrong places."

Lurker-Loos

Lurker-Loos

"Users who explore keep up on your posts without liking, commenting or following you or who bombard you with a hundred likes and comments all at once."

More on
YouthSpark Hub