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Almost everybody uses the internet and social media to find information, entertainment, and stay connected with the people in your life. But there are risks involved. Here’s how to stay safe and protect your privacy online.

How can I protect my privacy online?

The best way to protect your privacy is by assuming that everything you post online could be seen by anyone — including your parents. So only post things you’d be ok with anyone and everyone seeing.

Get familiar with your privacy settings on social media — and remember that sites like Facebook update their policies all the time. So keep your privacy settings updated. If you’re not sure how to do this, ask your parents or another adult you trust. Keep your passwords super private for social media, e-mail, your computer, phone, etc.

Protecting yourself online is really important. Be careful about what you post. Protect your personal information — like your phone number, address, birth date, and photos with landmarks — that might make it easier for someone to find you or steal your identity.

Be careful about buying stuff online and financial schemes — don’t send people you don’t know money online, or buy things from online stores that you don’t know and trust.

Make sure that your friends know that you don’t want them posting your personal information, inappropriate comments, or check-ins about you on Facebook or Twitter. For example, ask people not to post or tag pictures without checking with you first. You can also update your privacy settings so that you can approve all posts and tags.

If someone is sending you messages or pictures that you don’t want to see or make you feel uncomfortable, tell a parent or another adult you trust.

Tips for keeping your tech game on point

We spend our lives attached to the internet — our phones, computers, tablets, etc. It keeps us entertained and puts information at our fingertips. This is great in a lot of ways, but things can go bad if you’re not careful.

Here are some internet safety tips:

  • Be careful with humor. Even if you think it’s obvious that you’re kidding, it can be really hard to tell in a text, chat, or message. If you want to post or send something that’s meant to be funny — especially something sexual — make that clear (like add “lol” or “jk”).

  • Don’t fight through text or messaging — save disagreements or arguments for face-to-face. When you see each other in person, you’re both probably going to be a lot nicer and more respectful.

  • Trust your gut. If you feel uncomfortable sending a message or a picture that someone asks for, don’t do it. Especially if what you’d be sending is sexual, it might be illegal if you’re under 18.

  • Think it through. What you send or post is permanent and easy to share. You may realize after the fact that you shouldn’t have posted something and take it down, but someone else may have already saved or shared it. So remember, it’s impossible to really delete anything once it’s sent or posted online.

  • Your life online is a digital extension of who you are. Even if you use a different screen name or an anonymous account, your words and actions can be traced back to you. So don’t do or say anything online that you wouldn’t be comfortable doing in real life.

  • Stuff that happens online is as serious as in real life. When someone pressures you or is keeping constant tabs on you through technology, that's not cool.

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