Teen online Wouldn’t it be great to see around corners, like some of the action heroes in the movies, to know if anything dangerous is coming your way? Of course, that’s impossible in real life. But you can do the next best thing and help ensure you’re protected against danger before it comes your way.
That’s the concept behind several safeguards designed to protect your online presence from all the “baddies” out there trying to do harmful things like steal your identity, damage your reputation, drain your financial accounts and much, much more. Deciding whether to use such safeguards really comes down to this: Are you willing to leave yourself vulnerable to those who work 24/7 to take you down and profit off of you? Or are you willing to do what it takes to help prevent that from happening?
If you want to enhance the protection of your online presence, do these five things:
  1. Lock down your smartphone – Use a unique passcode to lock your smartphone and never share it with anyone else except a trusted parent or guardian. If your smartphone allows a biometric lock – voice, fingerprint, facial or iris scan – you should also consider taking advantage of this high-level security feature.
  2. Use passwords unique to you, or a password manager – Pick passwords unique to you that no one, not even your friends, could ever guess. Change them regularly – every six to 12 months. Or, subscribe to a free or low-annual-cost password manager, which will act as a storehouse for all of your passwords and accessible solely to you through a “master” password.
  3. Mark your social media profiles as “private” – Unless you specifically block off your social media profiles as “private,” anyone can access them and copy (or screen-grab) your information and/or photos – items you may not want anyone else to see. Don’t just settle for a social media provider’s “default” setting; double-check it to be sure you are protected.
  4. Don’t post inappropriate material, comments or photos of yourself or others – Something posted online that might seem funny, clever or cool now may not be tomorrow or even years from now. Don’t post something about yourself or others that might prove personally embarrassing or damaging, or potentially harm your future college admission or job chances.
  5. Don’t leave your devices lying around or loan them to others – Whether you have a smartphone, tablet, laptop or some combination, your personal online devices are a part of you. If you leave any device lying around, like at school, home or a coffee shop, it’s potentially accessible to anyone, especially if your device password is weak. And if you give your device to someone else after you’ve unlocked it, you should hope this person is trustworthy – or be prepared for the potential consequences.
For more information about protecting your online presence, visit the federal government’s Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency.