Girls today spend a lot of time online, and if youíre reading this, chances are youíre one of them. And not only is it very likely you spend a lot of time online, itís also very likely youíre completely unsafe Ė even if you think youíre doing everything right.
There are lots of things that can go wrong online. The one we hear about the most is weird old men who stalk young girls and try to lure them into motel rooms over the internet. There are a lot other bad things out there, though, and there are way more of them.
Downloading games, programs and other items from random sites, especially ones that arenít really established, can mean youíre allowing all kinds of viruses and Spyware into your computer. Unless you have top-notch internet security, by trying to download an infected file or opening an infected attachment in an email, you can be setting up your computer to crash completely or allowing software to install itself that can steal your identity or credit card information.
Not all the bad guys are weird old men. There have been plenty of cases of girls your age stalking other girls over the internet or in real life. Boys your age, or close to it, can be just as dangerous as adult men Ė perhaps even more so. After all, itís unlikely youíd be foolish enough to go out with a fifty-year-old pervert, but you might consider meeting a hot fifteen-year-old in real life. But just because heís your age doesnít make him safe. After all, that fifty-year-old pervert was once fifteen, too. It goes without saying pictures online are worthless Ė I can pretend to be anyone I want and find a pic to go with itÖ
The first step to protecting yourself it to be sure you have the best internet security. Talk to your parents or purchase a really good virus protection program to keep out all of the malware floating around on the internet. Then, be very careful about what you choose to download. Get programs or dolls only from trusted sites like The Doll Palace and skip anything from a site that looks shady. Your computer and personal information are more important than a screensaver anyway.
The next step is to consider all of your profiles online. All of your profiles should be set to private Ė even if youíre over eighteen. If you post pictures in your profile, and remove any of them that might give clues about where you live or your age. This would include things like letter jackets with mascots, pictures with landmarks such as malls in the background, or school dances with the mascot and school slogan in the background.
Read through everything in your profile to see if youíre telling people things you donít want to tell them. Do you mention your age? Do you tell them your first and last name? Or even just a first initial and last name? It is in your email address so that others can figure it out? Do you give your street name or clues about your school? Stalkers find most of their victims at places like schools first, so be especially careful about any clues you might leave lying around in picture comments or your basic information. Leave as much as you can blank, and donít assume a private profile is safe Ė they arenít hack proof.
Finally, as hard as it may be, donít go meeting people online. Stick to your friends you know from school or meet only the friends of other people you trust. And those friends had better be from real life Ė not someone they met online. If you donít already see a friend every day at school or occasionally at your cousinís house, donít arrange to meet them Ė ever.
Donít go with a friend to meet someone she met, either. Keep her away from danger if she canít do it herself. This might mean telling an adult you can trust. There is a misconception that this makes you a snitch, but it doesnít. If it comes down to keeping a secret or keeping a friend alive and healthy, itís really no contest. Besides, telling who a friend likes is snitching, not protecting that friend from being an idiot.