Top 3 Dangers of the Internet for Teens
The Internet is not an inherently dangerous place. In fact, browsing the web can be a great way to make new friends, express your creativity, and learn new skills.
However, there are still corners of the Internet that can be dangerous to teenagers if they don't use them correctly. Certain websites, including social networking sites, forums, chat rooms, and blogs, can compromise your privacy and make you the target of cyber bullying. These sites tend to be dynamic, meaning they are rapidly evolving and rely on social interaction between visitors from all over the world.
The good news is that you can avoid dangerous situations with a little preparation. This article looks at three of the top dangers of the Internet and suggests ways they can be easily circumvented.
Invasion of privacy
A recent Pew Internet survey revealed that only 60% of teenagers who use Facebook configure their settings so that their profile remains private. Teens were also more likely to post their cell phone numbers in 2012 than they were in 2006.
Despite these statistics, it's easier than ever to tailor your privacy settings on social media sites. Most major sites have detailed instructions on how to configure your visibility.
If you choose to make your Facebook remains public, it's important to use caution when posting personal details, including your address and phone number. Yes, there are blank fields for these details on your Facebook profile, but filling them in is completely optional. However little or much you choose to reveal is up to you.
Of course, there will be times when you want to use Facebook to exchange personal details. Let's say a friend from school has asked you to post your phone number on your profile. A good alternative is to send that friend a private message, which you can easily do from the Facebook homepage. This way, your phone number is only viewable by you and your friend.
Another easy way to enhance your online privacy is to turn off location services on social media sites. Facebook has the ability to track your movements on a built-in map. You've probably seen your friends posting their locations when they're on vacation or visiting someplace cool. While it might seem commonplace to use Facebook in this way, posting your location is another way to compromise your privacy. Especially for younger users, it's probably best to turn location services off, just to be on the safe side.
The Oxford dictionary defines cyber bullying as "the use of electronic communication to bully a person, typically by sending messages of an intimidating or threatening nature."
Cyber bullying can take many different forms, and 68% of teens see it as a problem. Yet it continues to occur all over the web.
One of the hallmarks of cyber bullying is that it is fueled by anonymity. This is why it tends to occur on sites like forums, where you don't need to reveal your true identity.
If you've witnessed cyber bullying on a forum, the best course of action is to immediately contact the moderator. Each website is different, but there is usually a Support thread in most major forums that will link you to a moderator's profile. Keep in mind that you may need to create a username and password in order to access Support threads. Check the specific guidelines on the site you are using for more information on registering a complaint.
Of course, cyber bullying isn't limited to forums. It can also easily occur on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. Fortunately, both sites have built-in tools to report various forms of bullying, including name-calling and harassment. Facebook has a built-in Report tool which you can use to report cyber bullying. Look for the "Report" link, which usually appears next to images or links that another user has posted on a profile. Using this tool, you can send Facebook a detailed description of a bullying incident so that they can take disciplinary action.
Impersonation is a more extreme example of invasion of privacy. You might think that impersonation only happens on television or in the movies, but it's actually a very real concern for teens using the web.
Thanks to the vastness of the Internet, it's often difficult to determine whether someone is impersonating you. If you find a social media profile that looks similar to yours, the best case scenario is that they simply share your name. If the user provides an email address, you may choose to reach out to them and see whether they're legitimate.
If you suspect that someone is using your name in a malicious way-- for example, to begin trolling on websites-- then there's more reason for concern. It may be hard to convince someone to stop impersonating you on your own. That's why it's important to involve authorities, including site moderators and administrators, so that the issue can be dealt with as quickly as possible.
On most sites, you can find the contact information for the site administrator at the bottom of a webpage. Administrators are a good point of contact since they usually have the authority to suspend of even ban a user from the website.
If the impersonation is taking place on Facebook or Twitter, then the Report tool is your best option since both sites see impersonation as a type of harassment.
It's also a good idea to keep a detailed written record of the incident, including dates and times. And of course, younger users should also always report instances of impersonation immediately to their parents.
Cyber bullying, impersonation, and invasions of privacy are only three potential dangers on the Internet.
Fortunately, once you recognize the potential dangers of the web, it's much easier to avoid falling prey to them. No teenager should ever feel afraid to use the Internet. As long as they exercise caution and trust their instincts, they can continue to enjoy everything the web has to offer without fear.