Teen Internet Safety Tips

You love being on your cell phone and computer. Who doesn’t? There are the emails, chat rooms, instant messages, and so many social networks it’s hard to choose from them all. The Internet is how your friends - and potential girlfriends - talk, share, and meet new people. How big is your circle of “friends?” You don’t want to be left out, right?

That’s okay, but remember there’s another side to social media. No matter whether your texting, chatting or posting your latest photos, it's the same as being out in public, face-to-face. Information about you can be seen by anyone with a computer or cell phone, including parents, teachers—and strangers, some of whom may not be who they seem to be. It's so easy and natural to share it all, to feel safe. Your name, where you live, how old you are, where you go to school, what you’re thinking, even your innermost feelings, are there for everyone to see—if you put them there.

Here are some dos and don’ts:
  • Pick a social networking site that allows you to control what information is public. 
  • Restrict access to your page to a select group of people, like friends from school and your family. 
  • Keep your personal profile private. Don't post information that can be used to identify you or locate you offline, like your full name, where you go to school, address, or phone number. And don't post other people's information, either. 
  • Post only information you are comfortable with others seeing—and knowing—about you. 
  • Once information is online, you can’t take it back. 
  • Don’t get angry and respond to hateful or hostile emails, chat comments, or any other messages. You can’t win online arguments so bite your lip and move on. 
  • Don’t befriend strangers you meet in chat rooms or other places. And certainly don’t get together with someone you “meet” online. People lie about whom they really are. The person you think is a 16 year-old girl may actually be an older man. 
  • Work with your parents when it comes to your online activities, including when you go online, how long you stay online, and what activities are okay. It doesn't mean you have to give up your privacy, just that you come to agreement based on mutual trust and understanding.
  • If things go bad, get your parents, school counselor or another trusted adult involved right away. It's the responsible thing to do and will help you avoid trouble and embarrassment down the road.