Heads Up!

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You text, you play games, you share photos and video. You update your status, you post comments, you might spend time in a virtual world.

Being online — connected through some sort of device — is how you live your life. And as you spend more of your time there, it can be easy to over-share, embarrass yourself, mess up your computer and possibly get messages from creepy people. The truth is there are some risks involved in socializing, playing, and communicating online.

Regardless of how fast your fingers fly on a keyboard, phone, or tablet, the best tool you have to help avoid risks online is your brain. When you're ready to post or send a message or a photo, download a file, game or program, or shop for something — stop for a second. Think:

  • Do you know and trust who you're dealing with — or what you're sharing or downloading?
  • How will you feel if your information ends up somewhere you didn't intend?

Asking a few key questions first can help you protect yourself, your friends, and your computer.

Ask the Experts

Dear Expert,
I posted a really funny picture today of my best friend and me. But she thinks she looks bad, and now she's mad because it's there forever. At least, that's what her mom said. But that's totally not right, right? I took it down, so it's down. Who's right?

Your friend's mom is right. Even when you take something down from a webpage or a social networking site, it's possible that someone else has already downloaded it. And there are ways that some people can find out what a particular page used to look like, even if it has been changed. That's why posting something really is forever. So it's important to think twice — or three times — before posting a photo or a comment.

Look at it this way: Things you thought were cute or cool back when you were younger don't seem so cute or cool to you now. Would you want your friends now to see some crazy family vacation picture of you when you were a kid? Probably not. It's also not a great idea to post pictures of your friends without their OK. They might not be happy about what you post — and it could get them in trouble with their parents, their coach, or someone else.

This article is part of a series: Heads Up!
Tagged with: kids, parents, teachers