Computers, mobile devices, and the Internet have opened the door to an online world. This world offers amazing opportunities for education, communication, socializing, and entertainment. The online world changes constantly, providing new areas for exploration. Keeping up with the changes is a challenge.
Millions of people use social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. They post comments online and write their own blogs. They use digital photography to document their lives, and the Internet to share their photographs. They use smartphones, laptops, and tablets to go online anywhere.
But Internet users of any age can accidently give out confidential information or be tricked into providing it. That information can be used by others to commit identity theft or financial scams. Provocative profiles and postings by teens can attract the attention of adults who want to exploit them in illegal, harmful sexual relationships.
Safe online navigation requires knowledge, experience, and clear thinking. Watch Attorney General Josh Stein’s Internet Safety video to learn more about making good decisions online.
Navigating the Online World
Social networking is an integral part of millions of people’s lives. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are the most popular networks, but there are hundreds of different sites worldwide.
Social networking sites allow members to communicate directly with each other as well as to broadcast their posts. They generally offer users “privacy settings” that limit access to their information. Setting privacy restrictions is one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself online. Unless you restrict access to your information and photographs, they may be viewed by any members of the network. But privacy settings aren’t foolproof, and how they work can change with little or no warning. Be wary about posting content or images you wouldn’t be comfortable sharing with a wider audience.
Blogs are web pages where people post thoughts and daily activities. Blogs typically invite comments that anyone can read and reply to. Commenters can often communicate directly with each other.
When you create a blog or join a social networking site, you open a window on your life. So make conscious, thoughtful decisions about what you reveal online. Avoid revealing too much information, or posting provocative content or photos. Comments or images that you post can come back to hurt you. Protecting privacy and practicing good online behavior are important for adults but even more important for young people.
Internet Safety Tips
- Protect your passwords. Don’t give your account password to anyone, even someone claiming to be from your Internet Service Provider. Your account could be hijacked, and you could wind up with unexpected charges on your bill.
- Use Wifi wisely. Wireless Internet service is convenient and commonplace, but Wi Fi can also put your smartphone, laptop or tablet computer and its data at risk. Learn to connect safely.
- Be careful about giving out your credit card number, phone number and home address online.
- Don’t email sensitive information like credit card numbers, Social Security Numbers, or bank account information. Email is vulnerable to hackers. Information should only be submitted through secure websites (look for https:// and/or a “lock” icon in the browser bar). Navigate your own way to the secure site if possible, rather than clicking a link in an email–which could lead to a website designed to steal your information.
- Remain anonymous in chat rooms so others can’t identify or email you directly. Use a nickname as your screen name.
- Read privacy policies to understand how a website uses the personal information it collects.
- Use privacy settings, but don’t rely on them. On social networking sites like Facebook, privacy settings can protect your information. But don’t put information or images online that you want to remain private.
- Is that “friend” an actual friend? Think carefully before you agree to let people who you do not know personally become your friends online. If you decide to allow people you don’t know “IRL” (in real life) to become friends online, consider setting up a special group status that limits their access to your information and their ability to post comments. This is an especially important protection for young people who feel that they must accept every online invitation they receive.
The Internet is a wonderful tool for finding what you want, whether it’s information or something to buy. But the Internet also is home to criminals and scammers. Learn tips to use when shopping online.
Before you bid in an online auction or order something online, read our online auction tips to make sure you get what you pay for.
Protect Your Children Online
Some Internet threats can hurt more than just your bank balance. Predators use the Internet to find and lure child victims. Learn how to protect your children online.
- Talk to your kids about online privacy. Teach your children to check with you before giving out personal or family information and to look for privacy policies when they enter a Web site. Many kids’ sites now insist on a parent’s approval before they gather information from a child, but other sites state that they will use the information in any way that they choose, including advertising.
- Talk to your kids about Internet safety, such as which websites are safe to visit, and what to do if a stranger contacts them online or if they find inappropriate materials or pictures. Use “parental controls”on your children’s browsers.
We Can Help
If you have a complaint about Internet privacy, contact us for help or call toll free within North Carolina at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.