Safety online means enjoying social media without giving personal information about you, including your location. If you are taking photos of yourself and you don’t want to attract inappropriate attention, details like having an address or a visible car number plate can give much about you away.
Once you post something online, even if you delete it shortly afterward, it will always remain online. This is one of the risks of being on the internet. During the short time your post is up, someone might see it and take a screenshot. Your post can then go viral, meaning it does not only circulate in your community but can hit the global stage. This can happen in seconds, so you really do need to be mindful and responsible.
When someone you do not know tries to get in touch with you, s/he will often be friendly and tell you what you want to hear. Compliments are nice if they come from someone who genuinely knows you. But if it’s a stranger trying to strike up a conversation with the objective of meeting you, this is called “grooming.”
Grooming can be dangerous if the person on the other end of the conversation has a fake profile and is only interested in talking with children and young people online in an attempt to have sexual or other unwanted contact. You do not want to be in that situation.
Contrary to what the general narrative is, the grooming period is when the person getting in touch with you is friendly and tells you all the right things – not the big bad wolf. And that is all the more reason why stranger danger online needs to be taken seriously.
A ‘catfish’ is a person who creates a fake online profile in the hopes of luring people into romantic relationships. Sometimes the perpetrator is just a lonely person hoping to find happiness in a new identity. Sometimes, however, the intent of a catfish is to defraud a victim, seek revenge, commit identity theft, or lure a person for money and trafficking.
Impersonation is when a person pretends to be someone else online by creating a fake profile. This is carried out by hacking your account or stealing your password and making changes to your profile. Once they have access, they can then post sexual or other inappropriate things to ruin your reputation or to bully others. They might chat with other people while pretending to be you. They will say damaging things with the purpose of offending and angering your friends, family or people you know. The intention of impersonation is to do illegal things using your name.
Cyberbullying is bullying that happens online and is particularly damaging for youth of all ages, who may often feel ashamed to share this information with their parents/guardians or trusted adults. It can occur at any time – day or night – and be perpetrated by anonymous sources. This makes it more relentless and, often, more brutal.
The most common type of harassment that teens experience online is name-calling. Name-calling is one of the most damaging and painful types of bullying. It leaves victims with negative messages about who they are by trying to define them in a way that is untrue. This includes spreading rumors and gossip.
A Pew Research Center survey held in 2018, indicated that 59% of U.S. teens had been cyberbullied, with 42% claiming they had been called offensive names (name-calling) online. About one in three of these teens indicated that someone had spread rumors or gossip about them online. To note that this survey was taken before the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns. Recent research indicates that these figures are higher today. In addition, teens tend to think teachers, social media companies, and politicians are failing at addressing this issue.
Cyberbullying has tremendously increased through:
- social media, such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok
- text messaging and messaging apps on mobile or tablet devices
- instant messaging, direct messaging, and online chatting over the internet
- online forums, chat rooms, and message boards, such as Reddit
- online gaming groups