Internet Safety Guidelines for Youth and Adults

I could list many do's and dont's about the Internet, but that would take forever. Instead I'm just going to cover the principles behind the rules before I give you a checklist. Even with a checklist, there are probably still many things that you'll come across that it won't cover.

The First Rule of Internet Safety: Protect Your Privacy

One, but not all, of the dangers of using the Internet, is something called identity theft, which, believe it or not, is a problem for both kids and adults (kids as young as 8 are having their identity stolen and later finding debt in their name). The easy way to protect yourself is not to give any website any information about you, unless you have to give that site information so you can place an order.

Some websites require you to create a user account in order to use it. Fill out these forms with a lot of incorrect information-- better still, don't use that site. Nobody on the Internet has any reason to know your full name or your date of birth, and most sites don't need your real email address either. Your full name and home address is only needed when you're placing a credit card order, and that's the only time you should give it out. Nobody ever needs to know your birth date on the net unless you're filling out an online credit application-- and that is not something at all recommended unless you are absolutely sure you can trust that site and your Internet connection.

Another common problem is something called "phishing." This is a crime which involves sending out an email that looks like it's from a bank, eBay, or PayPal. The links provided look like they're for the official website (and some in fact are) but a few of them go to some other website (usually a hacked site). This hacked site has a web page that requests your personal information, which is then used to steal your identity and/or gain access to your account. A general rule of thumb is: If an email asks for your personal information in any way, delete it right away.

You also should never give anyone your phone number, tell them how old you are, when you were born, where you were born, your credit card number, where you live, what school you go to, or have gone to, where you have lived. and so on. If some strange person calls you up on the phone, you also shouldn't give them this information.

Don't Trust Anyone: They Could be Anybody

Anybody can say they're your long lost friend, or another kid at your school. They can show you a picture of someone they found on the net, like say, MySpace.com, but they may actually be someone totally different. Meeting someone like that, or giving them your personal information, would be a really, really bad idea.

One boy told someone, who said in a chat room he was 16, where he lived. Later that night, he found a middle-aged man dancing naked outside is bedroom window. That strange man also gave him some rather disturbing phone calls. That boy discovered the hard way who he was chatting to wasn't who he said he was-- don't you make the same mistake.

Your telephone number is enough to find out where you live, so is your last name and city you live in. Your Internet (IP) address can be used to figure out what area you're from.

When you choose a screen name for a chat room, don't include your birth year, like "Joey95," or your age, like "Bobby13." This is a dead giveaway that you're a kid, and these nasty people, like that middle-aged man, be out to get you.

You should avoid chat rooms altogether for that reason, or any website geared towards meeting people on the net, like MySpace, or other such sites that allow you to create an online profile. The old fashioned way of meeting people is still the best. The best matchmaker in the world is God, so if you have trouble finding a date, better ask him ;-).

If you're under 16, dates are far more trouble than they're worth anyway. They'll suck the life right out of you. Besides, girls are pretty weird until they turn 19 or so. So go have fun and enjoy a free life while waiting for your sweetheart's brain to start working properly.

Real geeks don't have girl problems....

Be Specific in your Web Searches

When looking for something on the net you should quote phrases like "computers merit badge" rather than leaving them unquoted. This makes search engines look for just that phrase, and not the individual words "computers," "merit," and "badge." This will help you find what you're looking for a lot faster, and keep many websites you probably don't want to know that they exist from showing up in your searches.

If There's a Place that Makes you Uncomfortable, Leave

This applies to both the Internet and real life. If there's some site, some chat room, or some other place that makes you uncomfortable, or you just plain know you shouldn't be there, just leave. In real life, leaving parties that you don't feel good about, or leaving places and friends that make you feel uncomfortable, will help keep you from making mistakes you'll regret for the rest of our life.

Everybody is Watching....

Anything you put on the Internet can be seen by anyone who finds your website. So don't put anything on your website you wouldn't want a total stranger, or your Mom, to know about you. This will save you a lot of embarrassment.

The Internet Safety Checklist

  1. Never give anyone your last name. With your last name, you can be found in a phone book.
  2. Never tell anyone online what school you go to.
  3. When choosing a screen name, don't include your age as part of it, or your birth year.
  4. Never put your phone number online or give it to anyone on the net (your home address can be found by doing a reverse lookup on a phone number).
  5. Never tell anyone where you live.
  6. Stay away from dating websites, or any website or chat room that makes you feel uncomfortable.
  7. Remember: Anyone on the net can say they are anyone they like, and even give you pictures of that someone. Just because someone says they're 13 doesn't mean that they are!
  8. Be very specific in your web searches. Quote phrases like "electricity merit badge." You'll find what you're looking for a lot faster, and are less likely to run across nasty web sites by doing this.
  9. Only download and install software from a major company or "open source" web site (a web site that allow you to download both the full source code and the compiled software for free). This will dramatically reduce the chances of you downloading a virus.
  10. Never meet anyone in life you met online! If you still choose to, meet in a public place and bring along several big friends. Better still, bring your parents (if you're a kid).
  11. Any information you put on the Internet can be viewed by anyone, including total strangers. So never put anything on a web site that you wouldn't want a total stranger, or your Mom, to know about you.

It is recommended that a child not use the Internet without adult supervision. The LDS Church recommend that a child not have a computer connected to the Internet in their own room. All connected computers should be in a public place in the home. This is to lessen the temptation of viewing pornography online.

Locking up the router and cable modem in a closet is also a good idea. When its time for bed, disconnect the modem so your child can't connect to the Internet when nobody is awake to watch where they go.