Last week, Facebook, Inc., introduced simpler privacy settings and reduced the amount of user information that is publicly available through its website. I commend Facebook for responding to privacy advocacy groups and lawmakers in such a timely manner, but I believe we should all take some responsibility for our safety and privacy on social networking sites.
Now that area children are out of school for the summer many of them will spend more time playing outside, swimming at the local pool and attending summer sporting events. Area students will also likely spend more time watching television and using the Internet this summer. This week, I would like to offer area teens and parents some tips for remaining safe on the Internet.
* Think about what you post and share on-line. Blog entries, comments, photos and social networking profiles posted on-line make up an individual's digital reputation. Both strangers and those we know personally, like friends, teachers and family members, can discover new things about us based on what we post on-line. If it is not something you would share with everyone, don't post it on-line.
* Keep Internet conversations free of personal information. Never share your password, full name or the name of your school on-line. It is also not a good idea to post your address, phone numbers or date of birth on an Internet site.
* When chatting, playing games or posting messages on-line remember that you don't always know the people you are communicating with. Use caution when approached by someone you don't know, just like you would in everyday life. Reject invitations from unknown users and never respond to e-mail or instant messages that make you feel uncomfortable. Tell a parent about any personal or sexual questions or comments from a stranger on-line. Never arrange a face-to-face meeting with an on-line only acquaintance without involving a parent or guardian.
* Report cyberbullying or cyberharrassment, which is any cyber communication posted or sent by an individual that is intended to frighten, embarrass, harass or otherwise target another individual. You can also use privacy tools to block the individual from viewing your profile and contacting you.
* Sign a family pledge for on-line safety. A pledge is a way for families to talk about how they are spending their time on-line and agree not to give out personal information or set up off-line meetings. It is a good idea for every family to establish an on-line safety pledge for Internet usage.