How to Stay Safe Online


It is a new year and your social network is probably expanding rapidly.  Whether you are just making new friends or searching for that special someone, always keep your personal safety in mind when you are online.

Some online interactions might seem harmless or even funny at first.  However, this is not always the case.  If the online interactions are unwanted and/or make a person concerned about their safety, then they are considered harassment and a form of interpersonal violence and aggression.

Common forms of online harassment include, but are not limited to, aggressive monitoring of someone’s online actions, posting or emailing sexual messages about someone, or sending threatening messages or photos.  All of these online actions can create as much stress and anxiety as harassment in the offline world.

Here are four tips for staying safe while socializing online:

1. Check your account settings.  Do you really want all 1,000+ of your “friends” to know everything about you?  Make use of account privacy settings and make sure you know when a site announces changes to privacy settings.

2. Use caution when posting your physical location online.  This applies to using location apps on your phone, posting pictures of yourself somewhere, or tweeting your location. 

3. Understand how social networking sites work.  Ideally, this would happen before you sign up, but technology is constantly evolving. You may not know everything about a site until you try it.   Increase your use of a site gradually and with vigilance.

4. Report unwanted or harassing online contact.  Social networking sites typically have links that allow you to report or block unwanted or abusive contact.  Email services can also allow you to block particular addresses.  If you experience unwanted online contact from another student keep a record of the interactions and contact Counseling and Wellness Services or the Dean of Students.  Other UNC resources for reporting unwanted online contact can be found here.  

For additional information specifically about online dating safety: http://safe.unc.edu/get-info/online-dating/

For additional information about interpersonal violence awareness and prevention at UNC:  http://safe.unc.edu/

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