When I visited my young cousins last week, I noticed that they had an interesting mouse pad which reads "CyberProofed? Internet Safety Guidelines". The mouse pad was given to my cousins by a police offer who visited their school and gave a presentation about Internet safety. I am no stranger to these presentations since several officers have visited my elementary school over the years.
However, the aspect of their presentation that fails them is the fact that they failed to really implement their rules in our heads. The police offer who visited my cousins' school had given them a mouse pad which summed up the important points of their presentation. How incredibly smart! Anytime my cousins go on the Internet, they will have the Internet safety rules right under their fingertips. That amazing mouse pad shouldn't be exclusively available to my cousins, it should be shared with everyone:
Internet Safety Guidelines
Rule 1: Never reveal your personal information.
Never give out personal information such as your full name, address, phone number, email address or school's name and location. Also, do not reveal the personal information of others.
Rule 2: Never agree to meet, in person, anyone you met on the Internet.
You cannot trust anyone online. On the Internet, no one is really who they say the are. It is easy to lie and pretend to be someone you're not - I've even done it! For years, I lied about my age on Whyville and so many oblivious people believed me. When someone tells you that their ASL is 15/m/CA, how do you know they're not lying? Or, that pretty blonde Whyvillian isn't a man in disguise?
Rule 3: Do not give your password(s) to anyone other than your parents.
It's very simple to hack someone and it's even easier to get hacked. Never share your password with anyone but your parents. As a Y-Mail Helper, I hear several complaints from people who tell me that they've been hacked by their supposedly trustworthy siblings and friends.
Rule 4: Share your Internet experiences with your parents.
Several Whyvillians are teenagers and like normal teenagers, they avoid their parents. However, regardless of your age, you should tell your parents what you're doing on the Internet. That way, they can deem your Internet activity appropriate. They can also keep a watchful eye on you. Though it may be annoying, remember that they're only looking out for your best interests!
Rule 5: Do not open email unless you know the sender.
I get a lot of spam email everyday. When I'm sent emails from people I don't know, I immediately delete them for two reasons: 1) Emails can contain dangerous viruses which may destroy your computer. 2) Emails can also contain disturbing images, phrases, etc. If you do not recognize the email address and suspect that it may be from a friend, do NOT open it. Furthermore if someone requests to be your friend on MSN, Facebook, etc, do NOT accept their request. I've added several strangers on MSN and I've been stalked online.
Rule 6: Stop immediately if you see/read something upsetting.
In the event that you come across something disturbing on the Internet, stop what you're doing immediately. Next, either tell your parents about what you saw or close the Internet screen. But if the disturbing image/comment makes you feel uncomfortable, tell your parents. If what you saw is child pornography, call 911 because it is illegal.
Rule 7: Set guidelines for Internet use with your parents, including:
-When and where you can go online
-How much time you spend on the Internet
Rule 8: Get software to help protect you from problems on the Internet.
The Internet is a very dangerous place. You may be accessing websites with viruses that can destroy your computer. Nonetheless, these viruses can be avoided with the simple purchase of software. Norton AntiVirus is the best software to protect your computer and it's high price is worth it. However, other softwares work just as well.
Rule 9: Make Internet experience a family activity.
As I mentioned before, tell your family about your Internet activity. Moreover, make sure you also know what your family is up to online. Keep each other safe by keeping track of one another.
Have you ever seen the TV show "Degrassi: The Next Generation"? This show tackles important issues in our society and teaches it's target youth audience how to deal with them. In the episodes "Part 1 & 2: Eyes Without a Face" a character named Darcy Edwards reveals her personal information to a stranger on the Internet. In a bid to earn money for new cheerleading uniforms, cheerleaders Manny Santos and Darcy pose for questionable pictures photographed by a fellow classmate, Peter Hatzilakos. Peter then posts these pictures online and they are bought by his "friend" Adam.
Rule 10: Do not take inappropriate pictures of yourself or post them on the Internet.
Many of us have a Myspace or Facebook account in which we post countless pictures of ourselves. Even though several Myspace/Facebook users post inappropriate pictures of themselves, NEVER degrade your image to fit in. Do not follow the lead of thousands of girls/boys who have low self esteem and think poorly of themselves. Sure, these people are thought to be "sexy" and "appealing" But they're also thought to be "easily attainable." Have some self respect!
Darcy's website has a chatbox with several posts from Adam. Curiously, Darcy asks Peter who Adam is. Peter tells Darcy that Adam is his friend and that girls swoon over him. Adam daily compliments Darcy and Darcy, thinking that Adam is a real person, begins posting pictures of herself to please Adam.
Rule 11: Do not do things for strangers online.
It is safe to talk to strangers on chat websites. Whyville is a chat website. However, do not do things to please the people you meet online. They are only looking out for their best interests, they do not care about you at all.
Darcy didn't realize that is her cheerleading uniform had the logo of her school. Adam spots the logo and he visits Darcy's school. After being shunned away by the princpal, Adam follows Darcy as she walked home with her sister. By cleverly doing research, Adam gains personal information about Darcy - such as her address.
Rule 12: Call for help if you are met by an online stalker.
If you are ever confronted by an online stalker, scream for help and call 911. Even if it is a phone call or email, inform your parents. Do not respond to stalkers, just ignore them.
Darcy made several mistakes throughout the Internet safety episodes. However, she did make two good choices. She deleted her account and in turn, deleted the racy pictures of herself. At the end of the episode when she was confronted by Adam, she told her sister to go inside her house and phone 911. If you've made a mistake or broken any of the rules above, please right your wrongs.
"There's no privacy on the Internet" -- Spinner (Degrassi: TNG)
Author's Note: Do not accuse me of plagiarism. I wrote the 9 Internet Safety Guideline Rules straight from the mouse pad, which was provided to my cousin by the Peel Regional Police (www.peelpolice.on.ca) in partnership with the Internet Safety Committee (ISC). I wrote the explanations for each rule and rules 9-12 by myself.