Online safety tips

You’ll thrive best when you conduct your online life safely. Yes, you can have an online presence and enjoy it, safety does not mean never going online. But do it without putting yourself or others at risk.

Decrease your risk of theft or fraud: limit personal information

Limit what type of personal information you make public. One of the most important tips is to avoid putting your birthday online, or if you feel you want to include a birthdate, set it to be a little different to your real birthdate – a different date in the same month, and a year earlier or later, for example. You don’t want people wishing you a happy birthday when it’s 6 months away from your real birthday!

Your birthdate is a valuable piece of information to scammers and fraudsters, so don’t give away this information.

Likewise, never put your home address on social media. If a friend needs to know your address to mail you something, they can ask you by text, email, or over voice call.

Never put online that you are away from home, for example for a vacation. Burglars look online for that sort of information to know when the occupants of a home will be away so it’s easier to rob it. If you must post your vacation photos online, do so after you come back, and make it clear you are back. A good example is: “Back from a great vacation! Here are some of the highlights” and post your photos.

Don’t post any images that show your personal information – in particular, check the background of any images you plan on posting online. If you have an official document that happens to be in the background of your image, information in there could get stolen by scammers.

In general, developing good online privacy habits will be your best way of decreasing your risk of fraud or theft.

Protect your future opportunities by being careful what you say online

Do not complain about your current workplace, your boss or your co-workers on social media, even if your account does not have your name shown on it. People can sometimes work out who you are from what you say, so be careful that you will be OK if your account is revealed to belong to you.

Look to where you want to be in the future too. Social media is not the place to say things that would make your future workplace not want to hire you. You should even be careful about what sorts of jokes you put there. Avoid anything racist, sexist, or just plain mean.

If you wish to share a joke that is not-so-appropriate for all circles, this is something you can do in person with just a few trusted close friends, not online for everyone to see.

A good question to ask yourself when you write anything online is “Would I share this with my parents? What would they think if they knew I wrote this?”  Another way is to ask yourself “Can any good come of this comment?” If the answer is no, then don’t say it.

Ultimately, you need to be a good friend to yourself and protect your future by being careful what you say online. Just because some other people, even maybe someone you know personally, might be throwing away their future opportunities by being inappropriate online doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. You can’t make choices for your friends, but you can make choices for yourself.

Keep others safe

Another great tip is that everything you are doing to keep yourself safe from fraud or theft, do the same for your friends. So don’t write on social media to your friend “Have a great vacation next week! Bet you’re glad for the chance to get away!” If you want to get that message across to him or her, do so in a private manner, for example private message, text message, email, or in person.

Also, be very careful about not revealing the home location of people you know. You don’t know who has a crazy stalker in their life, or who has bad people in their past who they’re trying to stay away from.

Besides keeping your friends safe, be mindful of everyone’s mental health, even strangers. Before posting something, ask yourself “Could this hurt others?” If you’re not sure, or if the answer is yes, just don’t post it. There are enough problems in the world without needing to add to them!

The bottom line: be uplifting and supportive

Maybe you are getting discouraged at everything you should not be saying. You might even be wondering what you are allowed to say! To sum it up, be uplifting and supportive in your online life. Comment positively on things you like, not negatively on things you don’t. Just ignore things you don’t like. Of course, if anything inappropriate comes your way, you should feel free to report or block that user.  Not only will you thrive when you are positive about the things you like, but also the others around you will too. More people will find themselves drawn to you for your warmth and uplifting manner.