Never publicly post in ANY online forum any personally identifiable information. What is personally identifiable information? It’s any personal information that could be used to find or identify you in real life. This could be such information as your real name, address, telephone number, cell number, your sports team, health club, or links to websites or other profiles that might give this information away.
Even without meaning to, you can give this information away by taking a picture in front of your car with your license plate, home address, workplace, school, etc showing in the photo. You may be wearing a school or team t-shirt, a scout uniform or baseball cap that might give away ways of finding you offline. This information could be misused to steal your identity, guess your passwords, cyber stalk, cyber bully or harass you or by predators who really want to hurt you.
Always keep in mind that some individuals will maintain contact with the intent to glean as many small bits of information as possible. When viewed as a whole, these seemingly innocuous facts can used to determine a prospective victim’s actual location. They may use multiple screen names and user profiles, pretending to be other people, to gather more information from someone who might not be willing to continue talking to a stranger beyond a few conversations.
An easy guide for kids and teens is to tell them never to post anything that their parents and principal shouldn’t see.
On a related note, NEVER post any information or pictures that you would NOT want to be broadcast to the entire world. Remember, once you hit that send button, you will have virtually NO control over how this information will be used, or who may end up viewing it. A typical scenario involves one member persuading another to send them sexually explicit pictures of themselves. This can eventually lead to threats of publishing the pictures Internet-wide, or forwarding them to a victim’s friends, coworkers, and family members. Can you even imagine the level of embarrassment you may be forced to suffer?
NEVER give personal information to anyone you have not met in person. While it is human nature to want to know about the other person, their name, age, what they look like, where they live, this information is not needed to carry on a conversation. If someone presses you for this type of information, back away! Especially if the requests come early in your relationship. Most users with legitimate intentions will realize WHY you are reluctant to tell them, and will respect your desire to play it safe.
NEVER agree to meet someone you have only met online unless you have a mutual friend that could possibly vouch for them.
If you are under the age of 18 NEVER meet up with someone you have only met online unless your parents not only know who this person is, but agree to go along with you to the meeting.
If you feel you just must meet a new online acquaintance, NEVER go alone, and ALWAYS meet in a very public place like a popular coffee shop, a busy shopping mall, or similar place.
Choose your screen name carefully. Never include your real name, or any elements of it. Choose something fun, yet gender neutral. You may think that having a risqué screen name is cute, but be advised, you will attract the type of people your screen name appeals to. A screen name such as “Panda” is much less provocative than “SexMagnet”. And much less offensive to many of your fellow netizens.
Resist the urge to ‘tell people off’ or engage in ‘flame wars’. People come in all temperaments, and as in real life, there are those who will try to provoke you into an argument. This type of activity is becoming all too common online these days. Many people feel power through the anonymity that the keyboard gives them. Therefore, if you encounter someone who is rude in online chats, ignore them, back away! Most importantly, resist the urge to strike back at them. This type of person craves the attention their behavior brings them. Deprived of this attention, most either quit acting like jerks, or else move on. Either way, you have avoided a confrontation that can quickly escalate into a full-fledged harassment situation.
Remember your Netiquette and be nice!
Interesting Internet Safety Story
Something to think about.
Shannon could hear the footsteps behind her as she walked toward home. The thought of being followed made her heart beat faster. “You’re being silly,” she told herself, “no one is following you.” To be safe she began to walk faster, but the footsteps kept up with her pace. She was afraid to look back and she was glad she was almost home. Shannon said a quick prayer, “God please get me home safe.” She saw the porch light burning and ran the rest of the way to her house. Once inside she leaned against the door for a moment, relieved to be in the safety of her home. She glanced out the window to see if anyone was there. The sidewalk was empty.
After tossing her books on the sofa she decided to grab a snack and get on-line. There she could talk to strangers without being afraid. After all, no one knew who she really was and couldn’t hurt her. She logged on under her screen name ByAngel213. Checking her Buddy List she saw GoTo123 was on. She sent him an instant message:
ByAngel213: Hi I’m glad you are on! I thought someone was following me home today. It was really weird!
GoTo123: LOL you watch too much TV. Why would someone be following you? Don’t you live in a safe neighborhood?
ByAngel213: Of course I do LOL I guess it was my imagination cause I didn’t see anybody when I looked out.
GoTo123: Unless you gave your name out on line. You haven’t done that have you?
ByAngel213: Of course not. I’m not stupid you know.
GoTo123: Did you have a softball game after school today?
ByAngel213: Yes and we won!
GoTo123: That’s great! Who did you play?
ByAngel213: We played the Hornets LOL. Their uniforms are so gross! They look like bees LOL
GoTo123: What is your team called?
ByAngel213: We are the Brockton Boxers. Our colors are red and black and we have a bull dog on our uniforms. They are really kewl.
GoTo123: Do you pitch or what?
ByAngel213: No I play second base. I got to go. My homework has to be done before my parents get home. I don’t want them mad at me. Bye
GoTo123: Catch you later. Bye
GoTo123 decided it was time to teach Angel a lesson. One she would never forget.
He went to the member menu and began to search for her profile. When it came up he highlighted it and printed it out. He took out a pen and began to write down what he knew about Angel so far.
Her name: Shannon
Birthday: Jan. 3, 1986 age 13
State where she lived: Massachusetts
Hobbies: softball, chorus, skating and going to the mall.
Besides this information he knew she lived in Brockton. She had just told him. He knew she stayed by herself until 6:30 every afternoon until her parents came home from work. He knew she played softball on Thursday afternoons on the school team and the team was named the Boxers. Her favorite number 7 was printed on her jersey. He knew she was in the seventh grade at a Brockton Junior High School. She had told him all this in the conversations they had on line. He had enough information to find her now. “She’ll be so surprised” he thought, “she doesn’t even know what she has done.”
Shannon didn’t tell her parents about the incident on the way home from the ball park that day. She didn’t want them to make a scene and stop her from walking home from the softball games. Parents were always overreacting and hers were the worst. It made her wish she was not an only child. Maybe if she had brothers and sisters her parents wouldn’t be so overprotective.
By Thursday Shannon had forgotten about the footsteps following her. Her game was in full swing when suddenly she felt someone staring at her. It was then that the memory came back. She glanced up from her second base position to see a man watching her closely. He was leaning against the fence behind first base and he smiled when she looked at him. He didn’t look scary and she quickly dismissed the fear she had felt. After the game he sat on a bleacher while she talked to the coach. She noticed his smile once again as she walked past him. He nodded and she smiled back. He noticed her name on back of the shirt. He knew he had found her. Quietly he walked a safe distance behind her.
He didn’t want to frighten her and have to explain what he was doing to anyone. It was only a few blocks to Shannon’s home and once he saw where she lived. He quickly returned to the park to get his car. Now he had to wait. He decided to get a bite to eat until the time came to go to Shannon’s house. He drove to a fast food restaurant and sat there until time to make his move.
Shannon was in her room later that evening when she heard voices in the living room. “Shannon, come here” her father called. He sounded upset and she couldn’t imagine why. She went into the room to see the man from the ballpark sitting on the sofa. “Sit down,” her father began, “this man is a policeman and he has just told us a most interesting story about you.” Shannon moved cautiously to a chair across from the man. How could he tell her parents anything? She had never seen him before today! “Do you know who I am Shannon?” The man asked. “No” Shannon answered. “I am your online friend, GoTo123.” Shannon was stunned. “That’s impossible! GoTo is a kid my age! He’s 14 and he lives in Michigan!” The man smiled. “I know I told you all that but it wasn’ t true. You see Shannon there are people on line who pretend to be kids; I was one of them. But while others do it to find kids and hurt them, I belong to a group of parents who do it to protect kids from predators. I came here to find you to teach you how dangerous it is to give out too much information to people on line. You told me enough about yourself to make it easy for me to find you. Your name, the school you went to, the name of your ball team and the position you played. The number and name on your jersey just made finding you a breeze.”
Shannon was stunned. “You mean you don’t live in Michigan?” He laughed. “No, I live in Brockton. It made you feel safe to think I was so far away, didn’t it?” She nodded. “I had a friend whose daughter was like you. Only she wasn’t as lucky. The guy found her and attempted to abduct her while she was home alone. Kids are taught not to tell anyone when they are alone, yet they do it all the time on-line. The wrong people trick you into giving out information a little here and there on-line. Before you know it, you have told them enough for them to find you without even realizing you have done it. I hope you’ve learned a lesson from this and won’t do it again.”
“I won’t,” Shannon promised solemnly.
“Will you tell others about this so they will be safe too?”
“It’s a promise!”
That night Shannon and her parents had a long conversation about her Internet experience and online friends. They worked out a set of ground rules both Shannon and her parents felt comfortable with. They all agreed that this time they were lucky. If the person who tracked down Shannon was not a police officer, the results could have lead to a scary and possibly tragic situation. Remember the potential danger of giving away too much information about yourself. The world we live in is too dangerous to even give out your age, let alone any other information that may be used to trace who you really are and where to find you.
Be Smart. Be Safe!
*This story was adapted from the original “Shannon” story posted to the internet, author unknown.