Learning the safety rules of the Internet is similar to learning the rules of the road. There are many dos and don’ts, but soon they’ll feel natural. Participating in safe social networking is part of living a safety-conscious life. The faster you learn certain techniques, the better you’ll be able to navigate the Internet and engage in social media with confidence. Here are a few safety suggestions you may want to consider.
1. Use a Strong Password
When selecting a password, use a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters (@, #, $, etc.). This type of combination makes it harder for hackers to crack. InfoWorld suggests changing your password at least once a year for 15-character passwords and once every three months for 12-character passwords.
2. Set up an Alternate Email Account
Set up a special email account at Gmail or Outlook for social networking to keep your primary email uncluttered. You may not want all of the people you meet on the Internet clogging your “real” email inbox. If someone becomes a pest, you don’t have to see him in your primary email inbox.
3. Be Careful With Emails
Microsoft outlines several techniques for handling emails you receive through social networking. If you receive a link from someone you don’t know, don’t click it — the link could send you to a malicious site. Don’t reply to any email that looks “official.” If you’ve made a separate email account for social networking, official sources don’t have your social networking email address — they have your real email address. Legitimate sources will not ask you to reply to an email or to provide your password or personal information via email. If you wouldn’t give out a piece of information over the phone, don’t put it in an email or on a social media site.
4. Lurk Before You Leap
It’s best to sit back and watch before you join an online conversation. You’ll pick up on the site’s etiquette and get a good idea of who’s legitimate and who’s a troublemaker (also called a troll). Don’t respond to trolls, who are often paid to disrupt the conversation. Most sites let you set users to “ignore,” so you won’t see their posts. Trolls will pop up with different names each day or two, so click ignore as often as you like. The other person will likely not know you’ve chosen to ignore him/her.
5. Keep Personal Details Private
The point of social networking is to be social, but use caution about the details of your life and daily routine. People often post information about vacations, including departure dates and/or updates while they’re gone. They’re shocked to return home and find they’ve been robbed. Consider posting all those juicy details after you return from your trip.
6. The Internet Is Forever
There’s a site called The Way Back Machine that keeps a history of the Internet. You can view sites that went offline decades ago. Be careful what you post; it may be around for all eternity or until the Internet goes dark, whichever comes first.
There are real-world equivalents to all the rules of social networking. You practice them every day without even thinking about them. Soon, Internet safety will come naturally. You’ll see the potholes and steer clear as you become aware of your surroundings. Stay safe and have fun with social networking. It’s a great way to expand your horizons, engage in lifelong learning, and connect with new friends.
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