First up, Marie Kondo your online life. Your inbox is probably filled with random spam you don’t need, but it’s easy to forget about just how many mailers and promos and sites you signed up for once upon a time if Gmail keeps diverting these mails to your “social” or “promotions” folder. Take some time to wade through your inbox, and hit unsubscribe on all the mailers you can’t remember signing up for or even want. Close or delete all your unused social and email accounts and try to delete as much personal information as possible from your online profile. Tedious, but worth it.
Keep passwords private and strong
We have this friend who’s all up in cyber security, so we asked him whether stressing about passwords is really so important, and can’t we just have one? Especially since remembering them and constantly changing them is such a pain! He basically told us:
- Stop whining,
- Stop being stupid, and
- Make sure that you use strong, unique passwords… For Every. Single. Account.
Ideally, use a random password generator that gives you a new password every go around. Try something like LastPass, BitWarden and 1Password to help you generate and store passwords. Also, secure your phone with a PIN, and/or fingerprint and face-recognition technology, as well as two-factor identification for all your email accounts.
Here’s a nifty password tip: choose one standard password that you’ll always remember, then differentiate it with the name of the platform you’re logging into in front of the word. Like this:
- Standard password: Banana1
- For Gmail: gmailBanana1
- For Insta: instaBanana1
- For ASOS: ASOSBanana1
(DON’T use Banana1 as your password phrase! Use something unique to you that you’re sure to remember.)
Remember to keep your passwords private at all times – and if you want to go really old school, write them down in a password book that you keep in a desk drawer. Can’t be hacked, and you’ll stop forgetting your passwords all the time.
But is it random enough?
Make sure you know how to log into the iCloud or Android Find My Device so you can remotely locate, ring or erase a lost or missing phone.
Check out what Techspot has to say about passwords and how password manager tools work – interesting read and will help keep you safer
Don’t feed the trolls
Hairy, slobbering trolls are lurking under pretty much every online bridge they can find, looking for trouble and driving people crazy. Don’t let them. They aim to get people angry and engaged with them, but you’ll never get anywhere by getting stuck in an argument with a troll – their goal isn’t to prove a point, it’s just to be annoying. So stay well away. Don’t even call them out as being a troll. Smile and scroll and pretend they don’t exist. Much better for your blood pressure.
Of course, sometime it seems as if someone is deliberately targeting you and trying to cause you harm. Don’t retaliate, but don’t take it, either: if you’re worried about what’s going on and it’s negatively influencing your life, talk to a friend or adult you trust that can help you deal with the problem. And block those trolls out of your life.
Don’t BE the troll
It doesn’t make you cool, or relevant. It just makes you seem rather sad and desperate. Get out of the basement. Take a bath. You have a bit of drool on your chin, too. Wipe it off. Does your mother know what you’ve been saying to strangers, huh? (Here’s the thing: people who are nasty and aggressive online are more likely to be bullied themselves. Not much fun.)
Don’t talk to strangers
Seriously, guys – be very, very slow to trust anyone online. Even if you’ve been speaking to that hot Filipino guy for ages and you are soul mates and totally planning to meet up soon if he could just save up enough money... Don’t send him money. Or your address. Or anything. It’s probably a hairy, slobbering dude called Nigel sitting in a basement somewhere in Utah.
In worse cases, though, being too trusting can lead to people being catfished, or even caught up in sex trafficking or radicalisation. Be careful, keep your private information private and trust your gut. One more thing: don’t agree to meet a stranger you met online in real life, unless you’re taking serious back-up with you, like a pack of scary-looking friends or your mum or dad. It is way better to be safe than sorry. (And if you’re worried enough to want backup, you should probably not meet them at all.)
Don’t. Ever. Share. Nudes.
Imprint this on your brain: no matter how cute they are or how thirsty you are, don’t ever share any nudes of yourself with others, whether via phone or email or on social media. (This also includes SnapChat!) Once your pics have left the privacy of your own phone, there is no way to make sure that they don’t get shared around to people who were never meant to lay their eyes on them. And avoid sexting or talking about sex to random people online. You might trust someone, but you never know for sure. Just don’t do it.
Never, ever click on the link…
…is what we shouted at our colleague while she got ready to visit her local bank to ask them to block her card and somehow get her scammed money back. The thing is, she’s usually very savvy about these kinds of things, but it took just a moment’s inattention and an “official-looking” SMS to catch her out. And now she’s flat broke and asking her mum for money and her mum is giving her the hairy eyeball, like “Haven’t I kicked you out of the house yet?”
Don’t ever just click on a random link sent to you on your mobile or via email, or give your details over the phone to a random caller, even when it seems to be official (like, from the tax office), or linked to something that sounds legit (a package you’re expecting via AusPost). Triple check, and if something seems too good to be true, it usually is.
Also, you are now broke.
Listen to your gut
If you wouldn’t share it in a face-to-face conversation with a stranger, don’t share it online. Keep your wits about you at all time, and if something feels fishy, get out ASAP. Read between the lines, too; if someone just seems way too nice or flattering, it’s probably because they’re trying to manipulate you. (Yup, don’t trust anyone…) Think carefully about what you post – once you’ve put it out there, it’s probably there to stay. Forever. If you think you might be in some kind of trouble, talk to someone you trust who can help you get out of it.
Be the kind of person you’d want to encounter online
Basically, be nice, and don’t be a scammer. Be someone legit who is interesting, fun to talk to, kind, and avoids drama. But also someone that has clear boundaries, knows their limits and won’t take random drama from people. Protect yourself, and also make sure that you create a space around you that others feel safe in. And most importantly? Don’t judge yourself by what you see of other’s lives online. That’s just the road to unhappiness.
First, do no harm.
Need more tips and tricks to say on the Internet? Check out the cool Internet Safety resources created by the guys from Safer Internet Day here.
You could also watch this video if you have a bit of extra time: