Jayne Hitchcock here – I can’t stress enough the importance of being careful of what you “say” and do online. It can and will come back to haunt you later. Maybe even costing you a job, a relationship, or even school if you decide to further your education.
I’m not talking about teens – I’m talking about adults. It truly amazes me at how stupid some people can be online when you know they wouldn’t do that in real life, face to face.
I read my friends timelines on Facebook and see the rants they post, political and otherwise, or their nasty responses to other people’s posts. I’ve even had some post some nasty things as responses to my posts.
What do I do? What everyone should do. It’s your timeline, your Twitter feed, your account. Delete the post, and if it was harassing in nature, report it to the web site or Internet service provider. You’re not being rude – you are protecting yourself.
I also post that anyone who posts anything I don’t like will have their post removed and if they don’t like that, they can unfriend me. So far, no one has unfriended me. Take control of your accounts! You don’t need “friends” like that.
I always tell people that if that person continues, send them a very simple, “Please stop contacting me.” And if it continues from there, report them again. Or you can go to my organization, Working to Halt Online Abuse for free, anonymous help. We also have a bunch of great resources there and a link to our Kids/Teen Division.
What else can you do to stay safer online?
1. Use a free email account like Yahoo, Gmail or Hotmail as much as possible online and keep your primary email address private to use only for family, friends and business associates you trust.
2. When you join a web site, play an online game, join a message board, etc, “lurk” – this means hang around without posting or responding and make sure it’s a place you really want to be. If it makes you feel uncomfortable, then find somewhere else to go. There are literally thousands of sites, boards, etc that you’ll soon find a place that you can call “home” and feel safe posting or playing.
3. Just because a site, social media, smartphone app, game, etc ask you for certain information, does not mean you have to provide it. Put in as little info about yourself as possible. There is no need to include your home or cell number, your home address, where you work, etc. If someone really wants to call you or visit you, they can message you on that site or whatever you are using and give you the opportunity to accept or decline.
4. As mentioned previously, if someone begins to bother you online, a simple “Please stop contacting me” should do it. If they decide they want to continue, then it’s considered cyberstalking and all 50 states have a law that can be used, if necessary. Do NOT respond, but do keep anything they may send or post about you. Make sure you report them to the proper people, whether it’s the web site, a moderator, the Internet service provide or cell phone provider. It’s also a good idea to start a timeline with the first date it all began, how it began and go from there. Then, if you do need to get law enforcement involved, you have all your ducks in a row.
The above steps should help you stay safer online. Or you could end up like one of the people in my latest book, True Crime Online: Shocking Stories of Scamming, Stalking, Murder and Mayhem. I don’t think you want to be in my next book, now do you?
Thanks for the good advice.
Here’s another suggestion: Never pass on a friend’s or relative’s email address to a requester until you’ve checked with said friend/relative for permission to do so. Not global permission, you understand, case by case.
Excellent advice, Carl!