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Internet Safety Guide

Sponsored by a generous grant from Symantec Corporation

Introduction

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:

Emailing Safely

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:

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.

Downloading Files

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:

Internet Predators

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

Internet Research

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

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.

Source Citation

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.

Bibliography