It’s Safer Internet Day! Here are our top 10 tips for being Surf Smart

In this digital age, where young people are rarely more than an arm’s reach from their devices, it’s more important than ever to protect yourself from online risks.

2015_India_Surf Smart Programme_Internet Safety_Three girlsSo far, over 120,000 Girl Guides and Girl Scouts in over 33 countries have earned their Surf Smart Badge by learning how to connect positively online and how to protect their rights and reputation on the internet. You can find out how to earn your badge too, and in the meantime, here are our top 10 tips for being Surf Smart:

1. Social Media – it may not be as private as you think

Social networks are a huge part of online life and many of us love to be able to connect with our friends in this way. But you should always be on top of your social media security. So remember: always check your privacy settings and ask a friend or family member to look at your profile to make sure you’re not posting information you’d rather not display. If someone asks to be your online ‘friend’, don’t just automatically click ‘yes’. Do you really know the person? And finally, think before you post – once you hit the ‘post’ button, it’s out there forever, and you can’t control who sees it. Even if you delete it later, someone could have saved it.

2. Blogging – be creative, and safe!

Blogging is a great way to practise your writing skills and to share your knowledge about something you love. Whatever you blog about, check your privacy settings before posting – do you want this to be available to only approved friends, or to the whole world? Are you happy for future employers to see what you’ve written? Also, be ready to monitor your blog for inappropriate comments (which you can delete) or to block comments altogether. And of course, remember that once something is posted online, it cannot be taken back. Even if you delete a blog post, its content could have been copied.

3. Age restrictions – they’re there for a reason

Age restrictions online are there to stop you seeing something you really don’t want to see. If a page says ‘18+’, log off and tell your parent/carers. Also, if you’re under 13, you’re not supposed to have a Facebook account. This may seem strict, but it’s an important safeguard to make sure that potentially vulnerable adolescents are protected against online dangers, inappropriate content, and to prevent them from posting things online that may  have a negative impact upon them in the future.   

Surf Smart - Get Involved4. Passwords – be original

The key to a good password is finding a balance between something you can remember and something nobody else can guess. To be sure you’ve got a good password, keep your password at least eight characters long, and use a mixture of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. A good tip is to think of a phrase that means something to you and to use the first letter of each word, and add in a symbol and number at the. Also, don’t use the same password for every account, and keep unique passwords for important accounts such as social media and banking.

5. Emails – think before sending!

We’ve all heard the horror stories about people accidentally pressing ‘Reply All’ or using the wrong email address when they meant to send a private message to a friend. So if you’re sending or forwarding an email, remember that you can’t control who the email will be shared with once you hit ‘send’. Before you press that button, always check, check, and then check again! Be sure that any emails of a negative nature, are worded in a constructive and diplomatic style so as to remain inoffensive and professional.

6. Cyberbullying

When someone uses technology to deliberately and repeatedly be cruel to someone else, it’s cyberbullying. Often, it’s not meant badly – it might just be someone passing around a joke. But if it hurts someone, it’s wrong. Don’t assume however, that nothing can be done – cyberbullying can be prosecuted by law in many countries. If you or anyone you know is a victim of cyberbulling, don’t take part or respond – block the person who is responsible and if there is a ‘report abuse’ button, press it. You can also speak to a trusted adult to get advice, or to a school teacher to report what is going on – your school may have a policy and tools to help you.

To avoid becoming a cyberbully yourself – don’t upload or tag images inappropriately and don’t send or post mean text messages, emails, or comments.  If you ever feel tempted to post something negative about someone else, imagine how you would feel if someone posted that about you - if you don’t have anything positive to say, sometimes it’s best not to say anything.

Surf Smart - Case studies Costa Rica7.      Digital reputation – don’t be the one with regrets

Your digital reputation is what others think of you through how you act online, and unlike something you might say out loud, the internet doesn’t forget the things you post. Check your privacy settings on social networks, and remember that posting is permanent, so always think twice before posting online. If you do mess up, act fast to set things straight. Information travels so quickly that if you want to limit the consequences of that nasty post or embarrassing photo, delete it as quickly as you can.

8.      Digital footprint – know your tracks

It’s easy to think you’re anonymous when you’re online, but that’s not the case. Every time you go online you leave a trail. That’s not necessarily a bad thing if the information about you is positive and doesn’t reveal any private information. Everything you or anyone else posts about you adds up to your ‘digital footprint’. To check your digital footprint do a regular vanity search by typing your name into Google and seeing what comes up.

9.      Cyberfriends – be aware

Having good friends is important to everybody, particularly in Guiding and Scouting, where you can make friends from all over the world. But how do you know someone is who they say they are? To avoid getting into risky situations, always use a nickname online instead of your real name, and don’t give out your real name if someone asks. Meeting up with an online friend can be risky. If you really want to meet, speak to an adult and be sure they go with you. Using a chat room? Create an avatar instead of using your photo.

10.  Study Smart

If you’re running late with an assignment, it can be tempting to find information online about your subject and copy and paste it into your work. The problem is, it’s easy for your teacher to spot what you’ve done and use the internet to trace where you found the text. If you want to use text you’ve found online word for word, make sure you use quotation marks and remember to cite your references, i.e. note down who wrote it and for which publication, along with a link to where you found the text.

Surf Smart Logo 2015Surf Smart contains lots of fun activities to help you develop new digital skills and awareness. You can find out more and download the latest version of the Surf Smart programme resource to be used with Girl Guide and Girl Scout groups.

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