If you didn't know, today - Wednesday 11th February 2015 - is Safer Internet Day and to be honest, I am quite surprised and slightly disappointed that we weren't told much about it nor did we learn any information to do with the day in school. As someone who's always been on the Internet since a young age, Internet safety has always been right in the front of my mind, often like a sore thumb, but it is something I constantly take into consideration and especially as a blogger, it is crucial. In my mind, 'don't talk to strangers' or 'don't upload a photo if you wouldn't like your granny to see it' or 'don't add Facebook users you do not know' is not enough in terms of safety online. It's all too many "don't's" and there is a lot more to using the Internet safely than this.
First of all, I'd recommend watching Cyberbully on the Channel 4 website here if you haven't already, as it deals with most of the issues I'm going to speak about below. It is a real eye opener if you aren't aware of the detailed dangers and negatives that come with the privilege of the Internet, and even if you are like me, who knew about a lot of these things already, it will give you an alarming reminder ! Moving on to the rest of this post, I'm sure a lot of you reading this will already know this information but at the same time, some of you won't. Reading through articles on Safer Internet Day today really did remind me once again to be cautious of my actions online and I hope this post will do the same. I'd especially like anyone reading this to think about the times we've ever innocently said something not so nice about somebody else in a private message to a friend or if anyone reading this has ever liked or commented on a Facebook post or retweeted or favourited a tweet that was deliberately posted to poke fun at or hurt someone else.
NOTE : This post is not intended to scaremonger anyone.
THE INTERNET IS A PUBLIC PLATFORM
EVERYTHING IS THERE FOREVER
Nothing is private online and nothing is permanently erasable online. That Facebook private message you sent your friend ? Heck no, is that in any way 'private'. That double chin photo of your friend that you removed because she asked you to ? No way has that been permanently erased. How, you might ask. Well, before we even get into the nitty-gritty, we all have screenshot applications now which are accessible within the space of a few seconds, but that is not the half of it. Anything posted on the Internet is there forever and anything is on the Internet no longer belongs in your private possession because the Internet is a public platform. Not everyone who uses the Internet is nice and many have knowledge of how to find anything posted on the Internet. Ever. And don't forget about the terms and conditions of every app you have ever downloaded on your phone - did you agree to that list of conditions which included access to sent and received texts ? Nothing is private.
NOTHING IS ANONYMOUS ONLINE
EVERY TRACK IS TRACEABLE
Everything you post online can be traced back to you. Everything you view online can be traced back to you. That anon message you once left on someone's Ask.fm ? God no, is that one bit anonymous. That website you visited the other day ? One little scroll through your History or Recycle Bin will remind you of that. What a lot of people don't realise is that with a few buttons clicked, everything you have ever posted 'anonymously' online can come back to haunt you, friendly or not. Nothing is ever anonymous online. Anyone could hack into your device and find proof that you were the sender of these messages and although doing it by yourself I'm pretty sure is not 100% legal, anyone can trace an IP address which can again, trace anything you have posted online back to you. Please, please, please, treat Facebook messages or Viber texts to and from friends like having a conversation in a busy coffee shop. It is not in private, you do not know who is behind or in front of you, any information you would not shout around the streets, take extra precaution when sharing online, whether in a Skype call, a text or a tweet. Even if your social media accounts are locked, all information on them are accessible in some way.
YOU CAN NEVER 100% TRUST ANYBODY ON A SCREEN
"Wow, Grace, how hypocritical, considering you speak to more than a few bloggers you do not know offline" you may say, but I do this with precaution. We've all heard enough catfish stories to scare us off all our devices for life but it has to be said over and over again, you can never be sure of who you are speaking to online, whether you know them in real life or not. As for talking to strangers online - or other bloggers in a lot of our cases, please make sure somebody else knows about your online activity and this, whether this is a parent if you are under eighteen or a close relative or friend if you are over that age. You always need a second opinion and especially if you are under eighteen, your parents need to be aware of your online activity, My parents have always been aware of who I talk to online and I never hide the fact that I participate in blogger chats and communicate with bloggers online, most of whom I have never meant online. I see it as crucial. Please never give out sensitive information such as phone numbers or addresses, do not use chat rooms which are often quite sketchy and full of dirty nasty people who pretend to somebody they are not and I must emphasise if you do ever decide to meet anyone in real life you speak to online, do not go alone. I'd also like to add that anyone can take a phone and impersonate someone else online. That goes for acquaintances, school friends, anyone. There was an incident once where someone texted me pretending to be their friend and being all sweet to me and at the naive age I was at, I fell for it. It took me a long time to trust anyone I messaged by text or online and it still plays in the back of my mind every time I have an online conversation with anyone I don't that well. That may sound awful and paranoid of me and in no way am I saying you should all of a sudden think that every person you converse with on Facebook is playing a nasty prank on you, but what I am saying is to watch your back and keep in mind that it is easy to do role play online.
YOUR WEBCAM AND CAMERA APPS ARE NEVER SWITCHED OFF
When the Cyberbully fiction documentary was aired, I was surprised by the amount of people who were unaware of webcam and camera phone safety which is why this is the last and most important piece I'd like to say. Please watch where you leave your devices lying around - whether that be a phone, tablet or laptop. Webcams can unfortunately be hacked into, meaning that they can be forever watching you which sounds very scary but many consequences that come with this are preventable. When you are not using your laptop, always leave the lid down or turn the entire thing upside down. Don't leave your laptop up and running right in front of you when you are getting changed or something, unless you are sure you're okay with that - and I can guarantee that most of you would not be cool with that. Like private messages, when you are FaceTiming or Skyping someone, be careful of what information you share and don't say anything you wouldn't shout in down a busy corridor. Again with the phone applications, most of their T&C's include access to your photos and camera. When you take a selfie or any photo on your phone, ask yourself would you be comfortable with this photo being shared with half the world ? Any photo you take on a device with Internet is not private and any photo you upload is no longer in your possession. Also, always remember to ask your friends and family if it is okay to upload photos of them online before doing so.
I really hope that I got across the correct information in the right way in this post and that you enjoyed it and maybe took a thing or two from it too ! Again, this is not meant to frighten you off the Internet altogether or discourage you from posting online.
Happy safe online sharing,