Whether it is searching for cool indoor activities, watching TV shows, streaming cricket matches, or catching up with friends and playing games, there’s plenty to keep you busy online. So there’s no better time to refresh ourselves with some basic tips to stay safe when exploring the Internet.

Be careful when entering personal information onto a website. Photo: V Sreenivasa Murthy

Be an upstander, not a bystander
Social media is a great way to communicate, but sometimes individuals take advantage of the anonymity of the Internet to be hurtful towards others. The best rule of thumb to remember here is: if you wouldn’t say it offline, don’t say it online.

If you ever find yourself on the receiving end of a bully’s words, often the best response is no response. Internet trolls and bullies feed off your reaction, and not giving them one usually makes them give up. Most social apps also allow you to report abuse, so if you come across something that makes you uncomfortable, flag it.

And if you happen to witness someone else being targeted, be an upstander, not a bystander.

Take action by calling out the offender, reporting them, or just voicing your support to the victim.

Don’t forget: the Internet remembers
There are many good reasons to watch what you say and share online. Not only could your words affect someone else, the effect is compounded as the Internet has a very good memory. College is a time to have fun and make memories, but don’t be careless with your words. What you post online today could be around forever.

I grew up in much simpler times: when we did or said something silly, everybody laughed about it for a few days and then it was forgotten. But consider how easy it is to find information online today. Or think about how you’ve probably shared things on old accounts that you no longer use or have completely forgotten about. These posts can be hard to erase and many things are probably better left unsaid on the Internet.

So it’s important to be cautious about what you share, and do take time to review your privacy settings every now and then. If you have a Google account, visit www.google.com/myaccount to manage what others can see about you and what account information can be found online.

Safe sites
The Internet has made lots of things simpler today because they’re just a click or a tap away. New sites and services are created everyday. While many of them are genuine, not all are entirely risk-free. What should you look out for?

First, if something seems to be too good to be true, then it probably is. If you happen to come across a really great deal, do a price comparison, research the seller and read user reviews. Next, read the fine print before you click ‘buy’. Make sure you’re familiar with the seller or service provider’s terms and conditions. Finally, be careful when entering personal information onto a website. Is the site asking for more information than required to purchase a product or receive a service? Examples of sensitive information include your bank account information, security question answers or passwords. Be suspicious of sites that request this type of data from you as they could be attempting to phish valuable information.

Keeping the web safe is a shared responsibility and we all have an important role to play. As educated and savvy netizens, you can help your family and friends stay safe online by educating and helping them remember these simple tips.

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