Internet and Online Safety

Today, people use the internet for many things on a daily basis. Below are some tips we'd like to share with you to help make your use of the internet safer for you and your children.

Cyber Safety Tips for Parents:

  • Keep the computer in a common area, such as the family or living room. This helps you monitor your child's computer use.
  • Spend time with your child online, and talk to them about their Internet use. Ask to see their profile page(s). Many children have more than one profile. Google your child's name.
  • Know your child's screen names and passwords. Ask your child to add you as a "friend" on his/her profile page.
  • Limit the information allowed in online profiles and make sure profiles are set to private.
  • Control access to chat rooms and Instant Messaging. Monitor the sites they are visiting by clicking the internet browser's History button.
  • Teach children to avoid risky behavior, such as maintaining buddy lists that include strangers, flirting or discussing sex online with people they do not know in person, posting sexually suggestive material or being rude or mean to someone online.
  • Teach children to Stop, Block, and Tell if they are bullied or made to feel uncomfortable online. (source Wired Safety)
  • Remind children that computer use is not confidential.
  • Keep the lines of communication open.
  • Make agreements about computer use, such as:
    • sites they are allowed to visit
    • length of time they can be online
    • basic safety rules
  • Here are basic safety rules you should include in your agreement:
    • Never give out personal information (name, age, address, phone) or use a credit card online without permission.
    • Never share passwords with anyone, including friends.
    • Never arrange to meet in person someone they met online unless you agree and go with them.
    • Never reply to a bully or any other uncomfortable messages they receive online.
    • Agree upon the consequences for not following the rules or breaking the agreement. It can be helpful to write down the rules and agreements in the form of a contract.

  Cyber Safety Tips for Kids:

  • Don't share your password - even with your best friend.
  • Know who your friends are! Make sure you know someone in person before you add them to your "friends" list.
  • Don't post anything you wouldn't want your grandmother to see.
  • What you post online stays online--forever--so think before you post.
  • Pay attention to how you are communicating. Don't say anything online you wouldn't say in person. Don't be rude online.
  • Protect your privacy and your friends' privacy too...get their permission before posting something about them.
  • Check what your friends are posting or saying about you. Even if you are careful, they may be putting you at risk.
  • Don't take, keep, or send nude or partial nude pictures of yourself or others. You could be prosecuted for creating or distributing child pornography if you possess or send nude or partial nude pictures of someone under the age of 18. One teen from Florida was prosecuted and had to register as a sex offender after forwarding a nude picture of his exgirlfriend to her family and friends.
  • Don’t hang around online places where people could treat you badly.
  • That cute 16-year old boy may not be cute, may not be 16, and may not be a boy! You never know!
  • Tell a trusted adult if someone does or says something online that makes you feel uncomfortable.
  • And, unless you’re prepared to attach your Facebook page to your college/job/internship/scholarship or sports team application, don’t post it publicly!
  • Don’t become an addict. The key to becoming the well-rounded and interesting person you want to be is to find a balance between your online experience and your social encounters.

Online Shopping:

The Black Mountain Police Department offers a free SafeTrade Station for your safety and convenience. 

  • Never provide your personal information online unless you are absolutely sure that it is safe.
  • This means where possible, not giving out your full name, your address, your phone number, your credit card number, your tax file number, or information on your family and friends.
  • If you have to give a name to register or login to a forum or for some other online purpose, use a nickname or alias where possible.
  • Sometimes you'll want to give personal details, including your credit card number, for shopping on the net. This is OK, as long as the online seller is reputable and has secure shopping facilities.
  • Secure shopping means that they use secure servers which receive and store your personal information in encrypted form, so that if anyone intercepts your transaction, they won't be able to decode the data and get your details.
  • Secure site pages will have addresses starting with 'https' rather than 'http' (eg. you might browse around their site on unsecured pages, and then when you are ready to make a purchase, you'll be switched to secured pages). 

Using Public Computers:

  • Be careful using the internet for private communication (including shopping) on computers that are in public locations or used by other people.
  • On a public computer, other people might be able to view what you've been browsing or even retrieve your personal details after you have finished.
  • People you don't know could simply be watching over your shoulder (very dangerous if you are shopping online).
  • The computer could have a keystroke logger, which is a program that records what you type.
  • Use a combination of words, letters and symbols in your passwords - try to use at least 16 characters in a 'pass phrase', ie. a sentence rather than a word, to make it hard for someone to 'crack' your password with the help of a computer program. 

Chat Sites:

  • Chat sites or forums are OK if they are about sharing information about an everyday hobby or interest. It's best to avoid chats or forums which deal with people's personal issues or problems.
  • Always remember that you do not know most of the people, and they can be someone completely different online.
  • Never get into 'flaming' someone else on an online forum (ie. insulting them or getting into heated arguments) – you might find that it escalates into more serious harassment.
  • Be very careful if you want to meet someone you have met online. The person might not be who they say they are.
  • Plan to meet in a neutral place, like a cafe. Don't give out your full name or home address.