While access to information, forums, chat rooms, gaming groups, social networks, shopping and emails is so easy by using a variety of different devices, the need for us to be aware of what is happening when we use the Internet is becoming increasingly important.
When we walk across mud, snow or sand we leave footprints that are visible. The same applies when we use the Internet – we leave a digital footprint trail. Every click, every post, every submit leaves a trace. As soon as you post something online it is available for other users to do with it what they want. Even with the best privacy settings, you are no longer in control of the information once you have posted it. Other users can save it, share it, comment on it or use it in a negative way against you. Once it is on the World Wide Web it is potentially there forever. Even if you delete a post, remove a picture or a comment they will still be present on a server somewhere.
You are responsible for the information you put online. Even if you use false profiles to try and hide your identity, the user profile can be linked back to you if required. So, if the profile is used to do harm like cyberbullying and it is reported to the Police, they have the means to trace that profile back to its creator. Even if users attempt to hide their presence on the Internet they are never truly hidden. Also, you are responsible for the information you have stored on your computers, mobiles, tablets or any device that connects to the Internet that you can save things to. Be very careful that the information you are storing or sharing is legal and not abusive in anyway.
Be mindful of how much information you share about yourself online. Keep personal details safe. You would not choose to share that information to a stranger in the street so why would you do it online. Stay safe online by keeping up to date with your privacy settings. Sites do have a habit of changing their privacy settings without telling us so keep an eye on them. Stay in control of who can see your posts and who you make friends with. If it is someone you don’t know be careful because it could be a false account where the user has lied about their age or gender to get to know you. Remember, it is more important to have friends you know than lots of friends you don’t know or don’t know well because you never know what they are doing with the information you post.
Increasingly, colleges, universities and potential employers will search the Internet to see what they can find out about you. If you have been using the Internet for a while and have not protected yourself or been careful about how you are portraying yourself online, that is a whole lot of information they can find out about you. On the flip side, if you have used the Internet in a positive way this can be helpful. First impressions are important so when posting online think – would I be happy for my parents/guardians to see this. If the answer is ‘no’ then don’t post it.
To help you keep track of your online presence here are some tips.