Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Lessons in Online Safety from the Younger Generation

You are what you post. With so many of us being active online, changing our status, tweeting, writing on Walls and tagging one another,, we are living out loud online. We understand that our digital footprints can be tracked by our employers, significant others, family members, coaches, bankers, insurance providers and the police.

Across the board, the younger, more social networking-savvy users age 16 to 24 take  better care of their personal information online. They search for references to themselves online, use and change privacy settings, remove questionable posts and comments, and delete problematic friends.

They expected and got better and more granular Facebook privacy settings, so only grandma can see their cute baby pictures and only their friends can view their wild party ones. They wanted to be able to limit access to certain information to those it was meant for – their friends, family, boyfriends, girlfriends and best friends. They wanted to be able to promote their band or fashion designs to everyone while keeping their dating status private.

They are taking better control and making better choices than any other age group online. They are the “Facebook Generation.”

Two members of this Facebook Generation, Maeve and Casi, are some of WiredSafety.org’s Teenangels. Teenangels are teen Internet safety experts who educate their peers and advise the industry. When asked why their generation is more careful than the others, here is what they had to say:

Most young people learn about privacy the hard way. They see what problems their friends get into or face it themselves. We live the consequences of not being careful enough. In our experience, digital abuse is very common among teens and young adults.

It’s hard to find anyone our age who has not experienced some kind of problem directly or through their close friends. Whether it is as simple as someone posting an unflattering photo on purpose to embarrass you or as serious as a malicious hate group targeting your classmates, the hurt is real and persistent.

While it is undeniable that all people, regardless of age, care about protecting their privacy, because of our personal experiences, the “Facebook Generation” is strongly motivated to be proactive when it comes to protecting our reputations and personal information online.

Regardless of your age, you can follow some simple steps to help you protect your personal information and your online reputation. The Teenangels suggest you follow these tips:

Delete the dirt: Don’t be afraid to untag pictures that don’t show you in the most flattering light, delete comments on your page that you don’t like, or to ask your friends to check first before posting something about you online.
Think quality, not quantity: When it comes to online information, built your rep on good posts, pics and ideas. Lots of junk posted online won’t win you the kind of friends you want..

No backsies: When you post something online, even for a few minutes, it can stay online forever. In caches, copied to others’ profiles, printed out or downloaded – the bad stuff lives on and on. If in doubt, don’t post it. If it’s up already, delete it fast. (And ask your friends to look over your profile for their thoughts about when something should come down.)

Facebook yourself: You want to be sure people can’t search and find negative information about you on Facebook or anywhere else. So search your name, email, address, cell and telephone number-- anything that defines you. You can even set up alerts (like Yahoo!, Bing or Google alerts) so that you know when new information about you appears online.

If you don’t like what you find, when you search for yourself on Facebook, change your search settings to restrict more information and ask your friends to take down whatever shouldn’t be there about you.

Protect your password: Don’t save your Facebook or any other password to someone else’s computer, or let someone use your cell phone with you signed into Facebook. Don’t even give your password to your best friend or romantic partner. And don’t choose one that’s really easy to guess. “Easy to remember – hard to guess!” is the password golden rule. Make sure you’re using good anti-virus software too, so others can’t spy on you.

Be proactive, not reactive: Why wait until something goes wrong before you review your privacy settings? Set them up before it’s too late. Facebook offers many privacy options to limit profile access and allow you to control who can see what on your profile. The two minutes it takes is well worth it.

So go check out your privacy settings, and your search settings. And while you’re at it, look over your friends’ and family’s settings, too. If you see something that should be changed, show them how to make the changes.

We do have privacy choices: Learn what they are. Use them. Don’t waste them. 

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