In 2019, US teens spent roughly the same time on their phones as employees do on their jobs. On average, teens spent a whopping seven hours and 22 minutes on their phones every single day. Even kids between eight and 12 years old already spent nearly five hours a day on their devices.
Most of that time spent on button-mashing involves being online. These include social media activities, watching YouTube, playing games, and instant messaging.
Granted, many of these activities are safe and can even be educational. However, that doesn’t completely guarantee tween and teen safety on the internet.
One of the best ways on how to stay safe on the internet is for young users to know what online mistakes to avoid. This helps limit their susceptibility to becoming victims of online predators.
To that end, we created this tween and teen’s guide to the internet and the things they should never do online. Read on so that you can start keeping yourself (or your kids) safe from cybercriminals.
1. Sharing Sensitive Information About Yourself
Almost 1.4 million identity theft cases plagued the United States in 2020. That’s more than double the cases back in 2018, in which 444,344 stolen identity incidents took place.
Either way, many of these crimes victimized not only adults but kids and teens, too. In fact, over a million children have had their identities stolen in 2017 alone.
ID thieves target kids since they have a clean credit history, which they can then destroy and ruin. Teens are also in the crosshair of ID criminals as they tend to divulge personal info on the web. What’s more, it isn’t until teens apply for credit before finding out they’re ID theft victims.
With that said, one of the best internet safety tips is to keep sensitive personal info to yourself. Don’t just share them with anyone, especially not your Social Security number.
Don’t publish your birthdate on social media, either. If anyone you’re not familiar with asks, don’t be too ready to answer.
2. Sending or Keeping Risqué Photos
Did you know that older teens can also get charged with possession of pornography cases? This can happen if an 18- or 19-year-old teen downloads and then saves naked photos of anyone under the age of 18. If they share those images, they can get charged with the distribution of pornography, too.
Those pictures can also get shared around or even sold to criminals. The photos’ subjects can then attract stalkers who may turn out to be dangerous people. Do note that a 2016 study found as many as 14% of teenage girls and 13% of teenage boys have been the victims of stalkers.
Even if those daring pictures don’t end up in the hands of criminals, they can still spread like wildfire on the web. As a result, the subjects may face embarrassment and even school expulsion.
So, for your safety, security, and future, think millions of times before you send those snaps.
3. Publicizing Your Real-Time Location
Global positioning systems (GPS) can save lives, especially during disasters or emergencies. However, criminals can also use GPS and other location services to their advantage. They can find their next victim by tracking those who post their real-time location.
An example is posting a photo on social media and then specifying where you took that image. If you do this in real-time, a criminal who’s nearby can track you down.
So, one of the biggest mistakes to avoid on the internet is telling the world where exactly you are. You can always post photos and geo-tag them a few days after, once you’re back in the safety of your home.
One more thing: if you’re on vacay with the fam and no one is at home, avoid posting public photos. Burglars and thieves can use this as an opportunity to ransack your family home.
4. Acting Like a Keyboard Warrior
Keyboard warriors are those who post abusive or aggressive things about others online. They do all these behind fake names and accounts. For many of these people, the primary goal is to wreak havoc through cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying is quite common, having affected 15.7% of high school students in 2019. In a previous survey, 15% of 12 to 18-year old students said they were also bullied either through text or online.
Just like in-person bullying, cyberbullying can also cause devastating, even deadly effects. Scientists say that younger victims have twice more the risk of committing self-harm. They may not only think about suicide; they may actually enact these thoughts.
Having said that, always be careful of what you say online, especially if you don’t know that person. What you write to or about them can have both physical and mental effects on them. So, always be as good online as you are offline.
5. Clicking on Those Randomly-Received Links
Experts estimate that the world sends about 269 billion email messages every day. For every 2,000 of these messages, one apparently is a phishing email.
Most phishing emails collect sensitive data, such as personal and financial details. This is one way that criminals can steal the identities of children and teens. Many of these emails look legit, but they usually have a dangerous link attached to them.
That link may contain malware that can get downloaded to a device. Some also redirect to a phishing website that will then collect private information.
Therefore, teens who have their own computers or smartphones should use phishing filters. These block phishing media from making their way into emails or devices.
Parents should also install these filters on all devices that their kids use at home. In fact, they should get these filters for their own gadgets, too.
For maximum protection, consider investing in anti-malware programs. These protect against phishing, adware, ransomware, viruses, and worms. Some can even inspect connections, such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, for potential threats.
Don’t Let These Mistakes Compromise Your Safety on the Internet
As you can see, safety on the internet starts with not sharing too many personal details with the public. Be selective of the people you divulge information to.
However, you should just be as selective of what you share with them. Never share your login credentials, and don’t send those daring photos, either.
Ready for more safety and security tips and tricks like this? Head over to our lifestyle category, then, to check out our other educational guides!