The Internet can be a great place for you to research, learn, communicate, and socialize; however, there are also risks. This Internet Safety Guide will give you several helpful tips to help you stay safe online. You should review this guide with your parents.
Using the Internet Safely
Protecting Your Identity
Your personal information is extremely valuable, and can be used against you if someone else gets a hold of it. Always keep it protected by following some of these pointers:
- Never give your real name, address, phone number, the name of your school, or a picture of yourself to anyone online.
- Email addresses, user account names, and screen names should never include your name, birthday, name of your school, or any combination of personally identifiable information.
- You should let your parents know what your passwords are; however, don't share them with your friends.
- Always "log out" of websites to which you are signed in (such as IM or social networking websites), when you aren't at home, so that your privacy is protected from the next computer user.
- Beware of online surveys and quizzes that are often advertised at the tops and on the sides of webpages. Many will ask for your personal information, so be aware that many of those advertisements are written by untrustworthy sources.
- For additional tips, please review the following resources with your parents:
Unfortunately, many criminals use email to try to obtain your personal information; in fact, you might have encountered such emails, called spam. Never open emails from people or businesses you don't know and you should be especially careful about clicking links within emails. If you are unsure about the legitimacy of an email, show your parents. Have them help you set your email settings to filter spam.
To learn more about how to avoid spam and phishing attacks, visit these webpages with your parents:
- iKeepSafe: How Can I Avoid Spam and Phishing Scams?
- Symantec Family Resources: How to Protect Against Phishing
Social Networking and Blogging
Social networking websites (such as MySpace and Facebook) and personal blogs are a way to share what's going on in your life, photos, and similar interests with friends and family. However, it's important to take precautions, because information from these sources can get into the hands of predators, and can even be viewed by potential college or job prospects. Consider the following tips.
- Don't assume blogging is private. It's possible for search engines to pick up the information you post. If you publish photos or links to private websites on your blog, you also reduce your level of protection. Check out your blog host's setting options to find out if you can turn off some of these features, and be cautious of what you post on your blog.
- Be clear about your thoughts when you communicate with people online, since the other person cannot see your face or hear your tone of voice. Be thoughtful with your words and consider how a message might be read. Treat others kindly online, just as you would in person.
- Social networking websites can be great ways to find people with similar interests on the Internet and a great information-sharing mechanism. However, never post private information. Once posted, this information becomes public and can be stored on the computer and Internet history files of others. Even if you remove the information or photos, they may still be "out there" and in the hands of people who will abuse the data.
- Never allow people to join your social network whom you don't personally know.
- Don't make your online photo albums public. Require visitors to use a password to view them, and don't put personal photos on sharing sites that do not provide security protection.
- Many students might set up blogs to track their science fair project progress, but you should be aware that if you post your entire project online, including your data, it will make it easy for someone else to plagiarize your work. Posting a portion of your work would be a better way to show your pride.
- For more tips, check out these websites with your parents:
Beware of website advertisements, such as ads that ask you to vote for your favorite actress or musician, ask you to play a simple game to win a free game console or phone, or download free smilies or avatars. Once you click, you might be asked to enter your email address, and while that can seem harmless, it can subject you to spam or even spyware, which takes control of your computer and can retrieve personal information without you even knowing it. Downloading from an untrustworthy source could also subject your computer to virus-infected programs, which can do major damage to your computer, such as deleting important files.
To learn more about how to download safely, visit this webpage with your parents:
Just as you should not talk to strangers in person, the same goes for strangers on the Internet. No matter what anyone tells you, never meet an online stranger in person. You have no way of knowing who they really are. Never allow a stranger to join a buddy list, a chat, or an IM conversation. Tell your parents or a trusted adult about everything you see on the Internet. Always tell them when something makes you feel uncomfortable.
The Internet as a Tool
The Internet is a valuable tool for research. However, be aware that some websites are based on user-generated content, and aren't always as reliable as more traditional sources of information, like encyclopedias. While the Internet is a rich resource, libraries are also full of helpful information. You should also review the Science Buddies Finding Information for Your Research Paper page, which explains how to identify reliable sources and find useful information.
A trusted source, the Science Buddies Ask an Expert advice forum is an online bulletin board you can use to ask science fair and/or career-oriented questions. The Forum is staffed by trusted Experts. We screen and train all of our Experts before assigning them positions. In addition, activity on the Ask an Expert Forums is monitored by Science Buddies staff. You can access Ask an Expert from here, or by clicking on the Ask an Expert tab at the top of the page.
Plagiarism is when someone copies the words, pictures, diagrams, or ideas of someone else and presents them as his or her own. Think about when you work hard to write something—you don't want your friends to just copy it, right? Every author feels the same way. When you find information in a book, on the Internet, or from some other source, you must give the author of that information credit in a citation. Visit plagiarism.org for additional information about the topic of plagiarism.
It is acceptable to copy words, pictures, diagrams, or ideas from sources, as long as you reference them with citations and quotations, and use them within the context of other text you have written yourself. While it's ok to cite other sources, it should only be done to emphasize points you have already made in your own words. Cited works should not make up any significant portion of the student's project or paper. Check out the Science Buddies Writing a Bibliography: MLA Format and Writing a Bibliography: APA Format webpages for more details about each citation format.
When citing your sources, be sure you double-check the top-level domain name (such as .com, .gov, .org, etc.), because a reputable URL, combined with the wrong top-level domain name, could lead to pages with undesirable content.
- Symantec Corporation. (n.d.). Tips for Kids. Symantec Family Resources. Retrieved October 7, 2013, from http://now.symassets.com/now/en/pu/images/Promotions/2013/PDF/top 5 kids tips4d1conv.pdf
- Symantec Corporation. (n.d.). Teen Tips. Symantec Family Resources. Retrieved October 7, 2013, from http://now.symassets.com/now/en/pu/images/Promotions/2013/PDF/top 10 teen tipsHs1-conv.pdf
- Internet Keep Safe Coalition. (n.d.). How Can I Avoid Scam and Phishing Scams? Retrieved October 7, 2013, from http://www.ikeepsafe.org/be-a-pro/online-security/how-can-i-avoid-spam-and-phishing-scams/
- Symantec Corporation. (n.d.). How to Protect Against Phishing. Symantec Family Resources. Retrieved October 7, 2013, from http://us.norton.com/7-tips-to-protect-against-phishing/article
- Internet Keep Safe Coalition. (n.d.). Blog Safety. Retrieved October 7, 2013, from http://www.ikeepsafe.org/be-a-pro/online-security/blog-safety/
- Symantec Corporation. (n.d.). Social Networking Safety. Symantec Family Resources. Retrieved October 7, 2013, from http://us.norton.com/social-networking-safety/article
- Internet Keep Safe Coalition. (n.d.). Downloading Music/Videos Legally. Retrieved October 7, 2013, from http://www.ikeepsafe.org/be-a-pro/ethics/downloading-musicvideos-legally/
- Plagiarism.org. (n.d.). What is Plagiarism? Retrieved October 7, 2013, from http://www.plagiarism.org