As an Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Commander for the State of New Mexico, I frequently receive questions from adults, teens, and children on how to protect themselves from the dangers online. Here is a list of suggestions, many seem like common sense but they can help you stay safe while online. Unfortunately, many of our investigations involve not following these simple tips.
• Personal Information. Don’t give out personal information without your parents’ permission. This means you should not share your last name, home address, school name, or cellphone. Keep your privacy settings as high as possible. Remember, just because someone asks for information about you does not mean you must tell them anything about yourself!
• Screen Name. When creating your screen name, do not include personal information like your last name or date of birth.
• Passwords. Don’t share your password with anyone but your parents. When you use a public computer make sure you logout of the accounts you’ve accessed before leaving the terminal.
• Photos. Don’t post photos or videos online without getting your parents’ permission. Remember whatever you post online is in the cyber world forever.
• Online Friends. Don’t agree to meet an online friend unless you have your parents’ permission. Unfortunately, sometimes people pretend to be people they aren’t. Don’t befriend people you don’t know. Remember that not everything you read or see online is true.
• Online Ads. Don’t buy anything online without talking to your parents first. Some ads may try to trick you by offering free things or telling you that you have won something as a way of collecting your personal information. Also, there has been an increase of “fake modeling agencies,” take to your parents about what you are interested in, and have them involved in contacting them.
• Bullying. Don’t send or respond to mean or insulting messages. Tell your parents if you receive one. If something happens online that makes you feel uncomfortable, talk to your parents or to a teacher at school. Bullying is a crime, involve adults.
• Social Networking. Many social networking websites (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Chatstep, Second Life and Instagram) and blog hosting websites have minimum age requirements to sign up. These requirements are there to protect you!
• Downloading. Talk to your parents before you open an email attachment or download software. Attachments sometimes contain viruses. Never open an attachment from someone you don’t know.