The Protection Connection

This series is available as a PDF:

There are lots of ways to be safe, and you've probably heard most of them: Look both ways before you cross the street. Don't take candy from strangers. Don't run with scissors. Versions of those warnings exist for your life online, too. There are things you can do to protect yourself, protect your information (and your family's), and your computer.

Protect Yourself

Use privacy settings to restrict who can see and post on your profile.

Many social networking sites, chat rooms, and blogs have privacy settings. Find out how to turn these settings on, and then do it. Limit your online friends to people you actually know.

Learn about social mapping.

Many mobile phones have GPS technology, and there are applications that allow you to find your friends — and allow them to find you. Use GPS and social mapping apps only with people you know personally and trust. Take advantage of privacy features in apps and on your phone.

Trust your gut if you feel threatened or uncomfortable because of something online.

Tell an adult you trust, and ask for help reporting your concerns to the police and others who can help.

Protect Your Information

Some information should stay private.

Your Social Security number and family financial information — like your parents' bank account or credit card numbers — should stay in the family.

Keep your passwords private.

The longer your password, the harder it is to crack. Don't share your passwords with anybody, including your best friends, your boyfriend, or your girlfriend.

Don't reply to text, email, or pop-up messages that ask you to reply with personal information.

Even if the message looks like it comes from a person or organization you know, or threatens that something bad will happen if you don't reply. These messages may be fakes, sent to steal your information.

Protect Your Computer

Learn about security software and how your home computer is protected.

Be cautious about opening attachments or clicking on links.

They may contain viruses or spyware.

Sometimes free stuff — like games, ring tones or screen savers — can hide viruses or spyware.

Don't download free stuff unless you trust the source and can the file with security software.

Use peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing services with caution.

If you use file-sharing software at all, install it properly, and scan any files you download with security software before you open or play them. Otherwise, you could be sharing information your family expects to keep private, like financial records.

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