Social media. Dating apps. Distance learning. Sexting. Young people across Canada are more connected to the Internet than ever. Being online (if accessible to you) can be a great way to connect, play, learn, share and more. But there are some safety considerations to keep in mind before using websites/apps/etc. (Some things you may already know, while others may be new or a refresher for you.) Here are Kids Help Phone’s top five online safety tips to help you take care of your mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health:
Tip #1: Think ahead
Before opening a new account or sharing something online, think ahead to how you may use the website/app/etc., and what you’re OK with revealing to others. It’s important to remember that your personal information (e.g. your name, phone number, address, school, birthday, etc.) can be used to identify you. Keep in mind that anything you post can be distributed widely in seconds without your knowledge, consent or control. You can visit MediaSmarts.ca to learn more.
Tip #2: Review your privacy settings
Do some research and/or ask a safe adult to learn more about privacy and security options for each website/app/etc. you’re using. Choose the settings that are best for you. Some places to start include reviewing your passwords, advertising preferences and location sharing. You can also look up safety recommendations for avoiding spam, viruses and bots.
Tip #3: Know your options
The Internet can sometimes be a place for negativity, exploitation, cyberbullying, abuse, racism and more. If someone is doing something you’re not OK with, know that you can take action. Find out how to block, ignore and/or report people who do or say anything that crosses your boundaries and/or affects your well-being. If you’re threatened online and are worried about your safety, it’s important to get help right away. You can tell a safe adult and/or contact the emergency services in your area. You can also report abuse to the website/app/etc. where the behaviour’s happening. You can learn more about what to do by visiting TechWithoutViolence.ca
Tip #4: Unplug to recharge
You can reflect on your amount of daily screen time, and the pros and cons of your online activities. The Internet can be a space to find belonging, build self-esteem and access community resources. But it can also be a space for upsetting news, misinformation, harmful comments and more. If the Internet is taking over your life, or you think it’s negatively affecting your mental health, it’s OK to take a break and try a digital detox.
Tip #5: Get support
If you have questions about online safety, you can talk to a safe adult. You can always contact a Kids Help Phone counsellor or crisis responder for support, too. Resources Around Me may also have some programs and services that may be helpful to you!
Using the Internet comes with pros and cons depending on the situation. If you have any questions about online safety and your mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health, you can reach out to a safe adult.