When going through the schooling system, or teaching internet safety to our children, some of the same lessons were applied. Don’t speak to strangers online, don’t give out any personally identifying information, be wary of chatrooms, and don’t visit odd websites. All of this applies of course, but as we’ve seen with comment sections, social media profiles offering photograph uploads and privacy settings to hide them, and chatrooms becoming all but defunct, it’s true to say that these internet safety rules are just a little out of date.

So, what might they look like today, where internet culture is not a novelty but arguably something that predicts and defines our actual culture today?

In this post, I hope to discuss this, not only because it’s an interesting topic, but because sometimes we need to remind ourselves that proper use of a network that connects us to billions of other human beings or probably something we should handle with care.

With that in mind, please consider some of the following advice on internet safety:

1. Be Careful With Your Social Media Privacy Settings

Social media privacy settings are essential tools, and have been developed over time for the purpose of safeguarding your online identity and personal information. It’s important to take the time to review your settings regularly and make changes most appropriate to you.

Be sure to limit the visibility of your profile, photos, and posts to only those you trust, and even if you wish for a public profile, scale how much you share about yourself accordingly. Consider creating separate profiles for personal and professional use too, for example, some people use personal Instagram and Twitter pages while using LinkedIn for professional needs. 

You should also review and manage the list of apps that are linked to your social media account to ensure that they have access to only the information they need, this can be easy to accrue if you’ve used the “Login With X” feature many services offer. Finally, always be cautious when accepting friend requests from strangers or unknown individuals – it’s best to reject them unless you know them, even in adulthood.

2. Don’t Click Random Links

One of the most common ways that scammers trick people into giving away personal information or downloading malware is through links in social media direct messages. Unfortunately, people do still fall for it, because sometimes these messages can be quite convincing. 

These links may appear to come from someone you know or trust, but they can be dangerous. It’s important to avoid clicking on links from unknown senders, especially if coupled with an odd message or if you don’t recognize the link address itself, and always verify who it’s coming from before clicking on any links. You can report spam social media links or even scam texts this way, so that your provider knows to take action against those who sent them.

3. Set Up Your Restricted & Blocked Words Or Terms

Social media platforms have features that allow you to restrict or block specific words or terms from your account, if you wish to use them, especially on platforms like Twitter. 

These features can help protect you from online harassment, hate speech, or any other type of harmful content you don’t wish to see, or that annoys you. This way, you can more easily curate the online environment you want to be part of, but do remember that whenever you go online you do run the risk of seeing topics or discourse that you may not be entirely happy with. Learning to moderate our reactions to that can be just as useful as implementing those optional privacy tools.

4. Reject DM Requests You Don’t Care For

It’s important to be cautious when accepting Direct Message (DM) requests from strangers or individuals you don’t know well. Be wary of anyone who seems suspicious or makes you feel uncomfortable. Unfortunately, this is not uncommon, and it’s especially experienced by young women.

For this reason, it’s good to put those aforementioned privacy settings in place, but also to reject the requests for a chat from people you don’t know, or prevent people who aren’t part of your friend group from messaging you entirely. Remember that there are often “hidden DM requests” in your DM request section, which usually contains content social media companies have felt it necessary to limit. Often, it can be worth emptying this folder without ever looking at the content. 

If you’re not sure, it’s better to reject the request than risk compromising your safety. If someone sends you a DM that makes you feel uncomfortable, report it as quickly as you can.

5. Make Sure Each Website You Visit Is Verified

Before entering any personal information or making any online purchases, it’s essential to ensure that the website you’re using is secure and verified. Look for a padlock icon or “https” in the URL to ensure that your connection is encrypted, as this denotes a passed security certificate and should be clearly displayed in most modern web browsers. 

This guide that helps you determine if a website is safe can be ideal https://setapp.com/how-to/check-if-website-is-safe, and is a perfect read for internet users young and old.

6. Be Careful Where You Input Your Credit Card Information

When making online purchases, be sure to use trusted and verified payment methods like PayPal or verified card transactions. Avoid entering your credit card information on unsecured or suspicious websites – although some banking apps do allow you to create virtual cards and immediately delete those if you’re suspicious.

You should also regularly check your credit card statements for any fraudulent charges, and report them to your bank immediately if you notice any suspicious activity, luckily you will have protection by using chargebacks and other methods. That in itself can protect you, but nothing is better for personal protection than being wise and wary.

Parting Words

In my opinion, anyone attempting to make sense of the dizzying growth of the modern internet would benefit from following these recommendations for updated internet safety and security rules. Safe browsing everyone!!!