Finding Online Safety: Tips For Teens and Tweens

Systems of writing seem to come from the very human need to record. Transactions, governmental dealings, histories, and singular human lives, the chronicling of these things is, if not the inspiration for language, its immediate byproduct. The memoir, in particular, has made its mark on human history, and the technology of today has allowed us to make us all memoirists, the director of our own biopics. Ears constantly plugged with ear buds, we compose our own soundtracks, and eyes always to the newest social media, we are the publishers of our instant memoirs. This is a power which cannot be taken lightly, especially as teenagers. So, how do we keep our personal information safe even as it seems we lose the idea that there is “personal” information?

Staying Safe on Social Media

Protecting your interests on social media is tricky, because the entire point of it is to be social. We want to share as much as we can, but we have to be responsible at the same time. In a lot of ways, being safe on social media is like being safe with your information at school. 

Consider who can see your information. Most social media sites have a way of limiting the amount of people who can view your information. Take advantage of this. Ask yourself a couple questions. First, when adding a friend, will this person care if something good happens to me? The answer to this question should give you some indication as to whether or not you should let them see your information. Most people will care (and talk about) your failures or funny (to them) things that happen to you. Friends, on the other hand, will talk about you most when they are proud of or happy for you. The second question to ask is, before posting a status update, “Could I write this on my forehead with a permanent marker?” This may seem extreme, but if the answer is no, you might want to reconsider posting. Remember, everything you post can be found by someone, even if you have deleted it from your wall.

Don’t talk to strangers. Simple advice, right? Sure, but we don’t follow it as much online as we might while walking home from school. The fact is, many of us put a lot of stock into how many “friends” we have. You have 586 friends? You must be popular! Only 20? Loser. This need for virtual friends is exactly what online predators are counting on. Consider this: you could go online right now and make a Facebook page for Attila the Hun, Beethoven, and Bork the Alien King of Planet X-12, and so long as you had separate emails for each, Facebook would never ask any questions. Do you think an online predator would have any trouble coming up with Cindy Travers, someone who saw you in lunch and thought you were cool?

Put a little thought into your password. Imagine you brought 50 dollars into school to pay for a field trip. Now imagine it was in an envelope with your social security number, phone number, and bank account number. You put it into you brand new locker and set the combination to 1,2,3. Now go around school yelling “Hey! I have fifty dollars in my locker!” This is what you’re doing when you make your password your birthday, your best friend’s name, or “IheartJason.” What’s worse is when people share their passwords for fun. Remember that part above about making sure you could write every post on your forehead with a permanent marker? Well, sharing your password is like giving someone else the marker and saying “Go at it.”


This simply cannot be overstated: everything you post on the Internet is there forever. Most of the time, though, it doesn't have to be there forever to make an impact. The fact is, between blogs dedicated to slandering a peer (posting false or damaging information about them), Internet polling (“Is Tanya a jerk? Click yes or no!), and hacking someone’s Facebook account to write things in their name (Hey guys, it’s Sam and I just wanted everyone to know I’m gay), teens have killed themselves as a result of cyberbullying. The difference between school bullying, which is of course not much better, and cyberbullying is that cyberbullying is always there. Eventually, a bullying victim can go home if the bullying is in school, but online comments are online all day every day. Before posting negative or false information about someone, ask yourself this, isn't school hard enough? What would you do if your actions led to your victim’s suicide? What if they simply went to the police? 

More Information on Internet Safety

Safety Tips for Tweens and Teens
Social Networking Safety
Internet Security Tips
Stop.Think.Connect Campaign
Protecting Your Online Identity and Reputation
Stop Cyberbullying Campaign
Wired Kids – Resources for Parents, Educators and Kids
Netsmartz Workshop
Safety Tips from Lambda – LGBT Services
Tips for Parents of Teens
Online Harassment Statistics
Social Networking Safety Tips for Parents
Talking to Teens About Social Media and Sexting
Online Video Network Safety
Facts About Online Predators
5 Big Mistakes Teens Make on Social Networking Sites
Join TeenAngels – Raising Awareness for Teen Online Safety
Become an i-Mentor – Teach Your Friends About Online Safety
New Rules for Google+
Cyberbullying Myths and Facts