Cover Story: Safe Surfin'
Top Ten Ways to Stay Safe Online
By Del Harvey, Perverted Justice, Special to Sweet Designs Magazine
Del Harvey, Law Enforcement Coordinator with the watchdog group Perverted Justice, is regularly featured on Dateline NBC's "To Catch a Predator." Del and I have been messaging back and forth for several months, and recently I asked her how teens could best stay safe online. She responded with her Top Ten Tips, written for viewers of Sweet Designs Magazine.
1. Never give out your telephone number, address, addresses of friends or relatives, or the name or address of the school you go to.
2. Always talk to your parents if anyone says or does anything that makes you uncomfortable - whether just talking or joking, or sending you material that you find unpleasant or disturbing.
3. Never ever agree to meet someone in person you don't already know in real life, period. There are still risks, even if they seem nice, tell you they're your age, or want to meet you in a place where there are a lot of people around.
4. Never send pictures of yourself to someone you don't know. This includes adding strangers to your MySpace buddy list if you don't already know them from school, church, or your neighborhood.
5. Be sure not to reveal too much information about yourself with your screen names. Calling yourself "BostonGirl1993" lets people know that you might live in Boston and are under 18. Never include real names, birth dates, locations, or suggestive language when choosing a screen name.
6. Always keep your MySpace private so that it can only be viewed by people on your friends list. For extra security, enable the setting that requires someone know your last name or email address in order to add you. MySpace can be relatively safe if you keep your friends limited to those you already know in real life.
7. If you know of a friend or relative your age who has received inappropriate contact from someone they don't know, tell an adult immediately.
8. Remember that people are not always who they say they are. A person with a cute photo may be someone else entirely, and it's nearly impossible to tell without giving away too much information about yourself. Stick to the friends you know and trust.
9. Never attempt to "catch" a person you think is behaving inappropriately online. Tell an adult so that they can contact proper authorities.
10. The internet can be a fun, educational place, but always use caution and discretion when it comes to your identity. You may have the best intentions at heart, but not everyone else on the internet does.
Thanks, Del! For more on Del Harvey and this important subject, please visit www.perverted-justice.com.