Staying Safe and Avoiding Embarrassment Online

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Guest blog by: Neve Spicer (https://wetheparents.org)

For most teens, a significant part of life is lived online. Parents often struggle to keep up with the rapidly changing internet culture. Sometimes they don’t have a clue what social media, instant messaging, live streaming, and online gaming even are, what to speak of how young people use them.

I’m guessing your parents aren’t following you on Snapchat followers and don’t watch your Live.ly streams. This puts you in a unique position of responsibility. As you lead your online life, it’s up to you to be savvy about the risks and to keep your digital footprint ‘clean’ and private.

To help you stay safe and avoid embarrassment online, make sure you’ve got these fundamentals covered:

Sharing Personal Information

Be very precious with your personal information. Protect it like a hawk. For one, identity fraud is a big issue. On top of this, profile pics, bios, and location sharing can reveal your personal information to shady characters. Finally, once you share it, it’s out there and you can’t take it back. Whether it’s an explicit photo or an online rant, these things can lead to embarrassment, bullying, and even damaged career prospects.

Here are some tips for protecting yourself:

  • Be wary – Always ask yourself, “should it be shared in public?” Never share personal information like phone number or address with someone you don’t know.
  • Profile pics – Never give your physical location away in the background.
  • Usernames – Use nicknames, never real ones.
  • Privacy settings – Understand them and check them regularly.
  • Location settings – Disable them (eg, don’t let the apps or anyone else know where you are).
  • Passwords – Make ’em unbreakable, ie, more than 12 characters with capitals, numbers and special characters, and never share them.
  • Think before you post – Don’t share anything that you wouldn’t want your mom, teachers, or friends seeing.
  • Unknown followers/friends – Don’t accept friend requests from strangers. If they add you, ignore and delete them.

Online grooming

Sexual predators and scammers hide behind fake profile pics and usernames. They may mislead you by presenting themselves as a peer and trying to make friends. Always remember that new online friends may not be who they say they are.

Here are some tips for staying safe:

  • Be share aware – Keep your personal information, eg, name, age, gender, phone number, home address, school name, or photographs, private. Don’t share them, especially with strangers or new online friends.
  • Be cautious about “new friends” – It is tempting to accept friend requests from strangers. Having lots of online friends or followers can feel great. But remember, even if you’ve been chatting with someone for several weeks, they may not be who they say they are. Only accept online friend requests from real friends.
  • Never meet up without a parent present –  Never arrange a meeting with an online friend unless you’ve asked a parent to join you.
  • Talk about it – It may feel awkward, but try to speak with your parents or another trusted adult if you feel uncomfortable about anything or anyone online.

Cyberbullying

Bullying is always awful, but when it happens online it can feel impossible to escape.

If you are experiencing it, then here’s an approach to try:

  • Talk about it – Reach out to a trusted adult like a parent, teacher, or online support worker.
  • Save evidence – Capture screenshots of abusive messages. They can be used to report the cyberbullying to school, authorities, or the social networks and apps.
  • Block and delete – Try not to get involved. Don’t reply to nasty messages and instead delete them and immediately block the sender.
  • Report it – Use in-app reporting features to flag abusive users.
  • Be careful what you share – Don’t share any personal photos or stories which could lead to embarrassment if they fell into a bully’s hands.

Sexting

Sexting is pretty common these days. It can form part of a healthy relationship, but it can also get pretty complicated and comes with some pretty serious risks.

It is simply wrong if sexting involves pressure or coercion from one side. This is a form of sexual abuse. Don’t tolerate it. If you do say no, any true friend or boyfriend who cares for you and respects you will accept your decision.

Even if you both are into it, remember, once you share something, there’s no taking it back. Relationships can and do turn sour. If you break up and fall out, you probably won’t want your ex in possession of explicit images or videos which they can spread around or blackmail you with. Sadly, it happens.

Before you share anything, ask yourself: How would I feel if Grandma saw this? Could this affect my career prospects if it ever got out?

Digital Overload

Digital overload refers to stress induced by excessive media and technology use. It’s just too easy to overdo it with smartphones. This is a problem for adults just as much as teens.

Here are some symptoms to watch out for:

  • Tiredness and lack of energy
  • Forgetfulness
  • Stress and a feeling of being overwhelmed
  • Emotional volatility
  • Low frustration tolerance
  • Impatience
  • Loss of focus and ability to concentrate
  • Obsession with technology / Little interest in anything unrelated to technology
  • Feelings of disconnection from important people

If you are experiencing any of these, then it might be time to consider cutting back – though it’s not always an easy thing to do. Remember, though, if you do try, you are actually part of a progressive new group entrepreneurs, leaders, and celebrities who are shunning social media and instead choosing to forge what they see as more meaningful life experiences.

Wrapping up

In many ways, the internet revolution belongs to young people who have embraced it, using the technology in ways that no-one ever predicted. There is no doubt that the internet is exciting, fun, and useful. The challenge is how to enjoy and use it while staying safe, maintaining your integrity, and remaining sane.

You can do it.

 

How to Tell Your Parents Your Being Bullied

Most teens don’imagest want to tell, worry or burden their parents when they are bullied, so they keep it inside. You should tell your parents every time and any time you feel you are the victim of bullying. Just because you can “handle” the bullying situation, doesn’t mean you should have to. I know it may seem scary, but you have to tell an adult. If not a parent, then maybe a teacher you trust. How do you bring it up? Sometimes that can be the hardest part. Find a time when you have your parents’ full attention. Maybe this is while you are driving in the car with them, eating dinner, or taking a long walk. Think about what to say beforehand so when you tell them you won’t get too nervous and forget everything. If you aren’t sure how to start the conversation, say: “I need to tell you something that I’m nervous about and it’s important.” I guarantee your parents will pay close attention. It’s OK if you get upset while telling them. If you want to tell a teacher instead, that’s OK too. Maybe after school when the rest of your class is gone you can ask to speak with them. Again, practice what you want to say. If it helps to bring a friend along for support, that’s OK too.

I can’t stress this enough, don’t avoid the issue for too long. This can lead to you minimizing the severity of the situation and adapting to the poor treatment. Some teens build a defense mechanism around the issue to avoid it. They pretend that it isn’t actually happening. Does pretending really help? No. The bully will continue. Remember, avoiding any situation doesn’t help. Stand up for yourself when dealing with a bully.  Protect yourself; demand that the bullying stop. Say something early on. Don’t “accept” it. That’s not a healthy way to cope!

Now if your friend is the one being bullied, what can you do? Well, a lot of things. You can tell your friend that you are there for him or her. If the bully isn’t violent, you can confront the bully together. Show the bully you aren’t taking it anymore. Or, maybe if your friend is just too scared by the bully, you can tell a teacher on his or her behalf. Some teens just don’t know what to do. Be a good friend and do something.

Bottom line— Tell a parent or tell a teacher, but don’t let it continue.

TEEN MONOLOGUE SERIES at Thick House Theatre in SF Aug 9th, 2015!

TEEN MONOLOGUE SERIES: A collection of true stories about real teens struggling  teenage girl Sharing Secret With Friend In Park
with tough issues surrounding self-esteem.

Stories about teens…for teens.

Maybe you know someone like Katie? She is dying to fit in. Literally. A bulimic freshman in high school, she’s drinking and hanging out with the mean girls. Maybe you know someone like her?

Or Cindy. A high school junior who acts like everything is always fine. Playing three sports, getting straight A’s, partying on the weekends, but struggling with depression, perfectionism and addiction.

Seventy-five percent of teenage girls with self-esteem issues (have reported) engaging in negative activities such as: smoking, drinking, bullying, cutting, eating disorders, risky sexual behavior, and even suicide attempts. Story telling is a very powerful form of acceptance and self-healing.

Dates: August 9th, 2015

LocationThick House Theatre in SF (Playwright Festival)

Time: 12pm & 2pm

For ticket information click here!