Published by Blanca Carton, March 2011

It is a well-known fact that cyber-bullying is becoming a serious problem among teenagers. Just recently, two teenage girls in Florida are facing serious criminal charges for a Facebook prank they played on a classmate. The girls, aged 15 and 16, created a fake Facebook profile in the name of another student—a girl they were no longer friends with—and added photos doctored to make it look like their victim was engaged in sexually explicit acts (Source: Marco Eagle).

Situations like this raise the following questions:

Are you responsible for your own safety when you browse the Internet? The answer to this question is YES. In the same way you take all necessary precautions when you go back home at night, you should also observe certain online security precautions in order to chat, share information, etc. securely on the Web.

Are you responsible for your friends’ safety when you browse the Internet? The answer to this question is also YES. The Internet has many advantages but also poses some dangers that make you responsible, though indirectly, for their safety. If you post pictures of your friends without permission, give away private information (like their address, phone number, where and when they are going on holiday, etc.) or other data you might be putting them at risk.

For that reason we’d like to remind you of these 5 simple tips that will help you protect yourself and others:

  1. Enjoy the Internet. The Internet is an open door to information that before was only available to you in libraries, or trips impossible to make. It puts the whole world in your hands… Make the most of it!
    Note: In any event, you shouldn’t believe everything you see on the Internet or on TV. Always corroborate information.
  2. Treat your Internet friends the same way you would treat a friend you see in person. In the same way you wouldn’t trust a stranger you met on the street, you should be equally cautious on the Internet.
  3. It someone asks you where you live, your phone number or wants you to send them pictures of you, activate your webcam to record you or offers to meet on the street… Say no and report it. They will probably do to others the same things they are trying to do to you.
  4. Do not accept messages from strangers. Just opening those messages can trigger viruses that damage computers and try to steal information from them.
  5. Don’t insult, disturb or threaten anybody. Remember that there is always a way to know who posted a comment or photos on the Internet and you can be identified. These actions constitute a crime and won’t go unpunished even if performed from your computer at home.
    If someone insults, disturbs or threatens you, report it immediately to your parents or tutors so that that person is prevented from doing it again to you or anybody else.

Finally, install a good antivirus program on your computer  and keep it up-to-date just as you do with your favorite video game 😉