The joys of going away to college. Co-ed dorm rooms, late nights cramming for finals, that unforgettable Spring Break to Cancun. It’s practically a rite of passage for the newly minted high school graduate. Although the great four-year university experience has been around for decades, it’s vastly different from the way your parents remember it to be. This, in large part, is a product of the tremendous technological changes that have occurred. Namely, the Internet.
From connecting with friends on Facebook to researching the topic of your first term paper, the World Wide Web has completely revolutionized the life of today’s college student. With all the amazing opportunities and all the ease that the Internet has provided, it has also introduced a whole new set of security issues.
One challenge that faces many of today’s students is that of Internet safety. Especially in an era of over sharing, personal protection is a very hot topic. How do you stay safe online while still enjoying all the benefits the Web has to offer?
It’s not as hard as you think. In fact, all it takes is abiding by these five rules of Internet safety.
- Check Your Settings
Privacy settings are critical in protecting your personal information. A few easy internal alterations to your accounts and devices could easily save you from being a target. Adjust the settings on your social media accounts so that only people you know can view your activity and profile. Set up a password on your phone and on your computer to block access to the home screen and turn on lock-screen features whenever possible.
- Share Selectively
From Facebook to LinkedIn to the forums of your online anthropology class, creating a community among peers is dependent upon exchanges of information. You can share your information selectively, however. Make a conscious effort to divulge information with discretion. Posting your phone number on Instagram? Probably not necessary. Be smart and share smart.
- Build a Better Password
You can’t keep all of your information offline, but you can protect it with strong password protection. A password that includes common names or phrases will put you more at risk, as will the practice of using the same password for multiple accounts. The longer and more complex the password, the better. It’s also a good idea to include a mix of numbers and letters and symbols, as well as both upper- and lower-case letters.
- Connect with Caution
The great thing about the Internet is that it’s everywhere. Hit up your local coffee shop and log onto their Wi-Fi. Score some lunch and stream wirelessly. Log onto a hotspot while you get your hair cut. Super convenient for you, and super convenient for hackers, too. They often take advantage of public Wi-Fi zones to steal your private information.
Avoid using these unsecured wireless connections when making financial transactions or accessing personal data. Likewise, take advantage of security software and update your browsers regularly, as well as make sure to keep your Bluetooth switched off in these areas.
- Go with Your Gut
Even if you’ve taken all the precautions and adjusted all your accounts and devices accordingly, sometimes interactions online just seem strange. If something appears off, chances are it likely is. Any situations online that are uncomfortable should be reported to either a friend or family member, a web administrator, campus security, or if need be, the police.
There’s no question that the Internet has significantly altered what it means to be a college student in today’s day. Instant access to research, convenient shopping, online instruction, and building a connected community of students through sites like Facebook have all made college life easier, faster, and more fun. At the same time the wonderful World Wide Web can pose some serious safety threats. Students on today’s college campuses around the globe can easily protect themselves with a few smart steps.