I'm sure that a lot of people on here have read about tragic teenager Amanda Todd, who was cy'ber bullied and hounded to death as a result. Read her story here.
Lessons can and must be learned from Amanda's story, including how to keep yourself safe from creeps online. Bullying in any form is bad, and the fact that it's online doesn't make any difference to the effect that it can have on its victims. Below is a list of ways to protect yourself and your family on the internet.
1. Stay anonymous.
It's a sad fact of life that not everyone is nice; this goes for social networking as well as in real life. Give out as little information as you can about yourself; this doesn't mean trivial things like hair colour or your favourite band, but more things like the list below:
2. Protect yourself and be smart.
You never know who is looking at what you put online or what they're going to use it for. Never post any sexy photos of yourself online, and if anyone messages you asking for any, then report them. A predator could use the pictures to blackmail you, for example; saying they'll spread them around if you don't do what they say. If you have a Facebook account, set it to private and don't friend anyone you don't know. If someone starts to make sexual comments or suggests that you perform on webcam, unfriend, block and report. Anyone who accesses your profile on a social networking site can copy or screen-capture information and photos that you may not want the world to see. Don't rely on the site's default settings. Read each site's instructions or guidelines to make sure you're doing everything you can to keep your material private. Even if you have a private profile, you should still not post sexy photos; a private page could still be hacked and the photos copied and forwarded.
3. Safeguard your passwords.
If someone logs on to a site and pretends to be you, they can trash your identity. Pick passwords that no one will guess (don't use your favorite band or your dog's birthday; try thinking of two utterly random nouns and mixing in a random number), and change them often. Never share them with anyone other than your parents or a trusted adult. Not even your best friend, boyfriend, or girlfriend should know your private passwords! If you get a private message claiming to be from a site or forum admin and asking for your password, don't give it out! Admins don't need your password to access your account; the message is from someone who wants your password so they can steal your account and everything that goes with it. Report the message to a real admin.
4. Don't respond to inappropriate requests.
Research shows that a high percentage of teens receive inappropriate messages and solicitations when they're online. These can be scary, strange, and even embarrassing. If you feel harassed by a stranger or a friend online, tell an adult you trust immediately. It is never a good idea to respond. Responding is only likely to make things worse, and might result in you saying something you wish you hadn't. Remember that the person who is contacting you in this way is breaking the law, and you are within your rights to have them punished. You have done nothing wrong, and should not feel guilty.
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