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VARIOUS TEXTS: SAFETY FOR TEENAGERS ON THE INFORMATION HIGHWAY

Whatever your age, the Internet is a great place to hang out. It’s not only fun, but it lets you keep in touch with friends and family and provides an enormous amount of information. There are lots of great educational sites as well as places to keep up with your favorite hobbies, music, sports, and much more. If you’re a teen, we probably don’t need to sell you on the benefits of the Internet. Many of you know far more than your parents or even teachers about the wonders of cyberspace. If you’re a parent, talk to your children about “the Net” and — if you need to learn more — see if they can help you. Either way, it’s important for teens and parents to share knowledge. You have something to learn from each other — if not about the Internet, then about life in general, how to make good decisions, and how to look at information critically.

Contents:

General Risks
1. Situations and Behaviors that Make You Feel Uncomfortable
2. Putting Yourself in Physical Danger
3. Giving Up Privacy Or Putting Yourself Or Your Our Family In Financial Risk
4. Harassment and Bullying
5. Hurting Others and Getting into Trouble
Risks by Area
1. The Web
2. Chatrooms
3. Instant Messaging
4. Newsgroups, Forums and Bulletin Boards
1. Situations and Behaviors that Make You Feel Uncomfortable
Not everything that can go wrong in cyberspace necessarily puts you in physical danger. There are chatrooms, newsgroups, web sites, and other places online containing material that could make you feel uncomfortable. It could be material that’s sexual and/ or violent in nature. It could be material espousing hateful attitudes or discussing activities that you find repulsive or unpleasant. It really doesn’t matter what it is. What does matter is that you have the right – and the tools – to instantly remove yourself from any area where you feel you shouldn’t be.
Teens have been bullied, harassed, or “hit on” by others while in chatrooms, instant messaging sessions, or on their cellular telephones. Sometimes the people responsible for this inappropriate behavior are fellow teens or young adults, but that doesn’t make it OK. At other times, it can be older adults posing as teenagers. Either way, no one should have to put up with rudeness or unwanted sexual banter.

2. Putting Yourself in Physical Danger
The most serious risk you can face involves the possibility of someone hurting or exploiting you because of information that you post or someone else posts about you online or because of something you do or somewhere you go as a result of what you encounter online. The number of teens who are molested, abducted, or leave home as a result of contacts made on the Internet are relatively low, but when it happens the results can be tragic.

3. Giving Up Privacy Or Putting Yourself Or Your Our Family In Financial Risk
The Internet, like so many other places in this world, is home to people who would try to take money from you or your family or just pester you with unwelcome advertising and marketing material. Be especially wary of any “get rich quick” schemes that promise to help earn you lots of money in your spare time or offers that will help you lose weight quickly or enhance your appearance. If something sounds “too good to be true,” it probably is.

4. Harassment and Bullying
Not everyone in cyberspace minds his or her manners. When you’re online, especially in bulletin boards or chatrooms, there is a chance that you’ll get messages that are demeaning, harassing, or just plain mean. Don’t take it personally. A message that is demeaning says a lot more about the sender than it does about the person who gets it. Ironically, even people who are nice in the “real” world can forget their manners when they go online. The best thing to do if you encounter messages or people in chatrooms who are acting that way is to ignore them. Some messages, however, may constitute harassment, which is a crime under federal law. If someone sends you messages or images that are filthy, indecent, lewd, or obscene with the intent to abuse, annoy, harass, or threaten you, report it to your Internet service provider and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s CyberTipline® at www.cybertipline.com or by calling 1-800-843-5678. You should also report it to school authorities if the incident takes place at school or involves other students from your school.

5. Hurting Others and Getting into Trouble
Avoid anything that might hurt people and risk getting you into trouble. You need to respect other people’s privacy and avoid taking any actions that annoy, harass, or hurt other people. You are responsible for your behavior online.

Risks by Area

1. The Web
Web sites give you the opportunity to read newspapers, tour museums, check out libraries, visit distant lands, play games, look at pictures, shop, or do research to help you with your homework. You can pursue your hobbies, plan vacations, and do much more. There are millions of web sites on just about every topic imaginable.
Did You Know? Some web sites are wonderful, others are kind of dumb, and some contain so-called “adult” images and other material that teens should avoid. Still others are demeaning, racist, sexist, and violent or contain false information. Some of these sites contain material that can be disturbing, even for adults. If you wander into any of these areas, it’s best to immediately leave by clicking on the Home icon, going to another site, or shutting down your browser.
Caution: In addition to displaying information, web sites sometimes ask you for information about yourself. The site may ask for your name, your mailing address, your E-mail address, and other information before letting you in. It may entice you to provide information in exchange for sending you a promotional item or entering you in a contest. Never enter any information about yourself without first checking with your parents.
When you enter information on a web site or any place on the Internet, you’re giving up a bit of your privacy.

2. Chatrooms
Chatrooms let you engage in a live conversation with people around the block or around the world. It’s like being on a party line, only you type instead of talk. Everyone in the “chatroom” can see everything you type. The types of chatrooms vary depending on the service you’re using. Some chatrooms are just open conversations. Everyone has a pretty much equal role. Some rooms are moderated where there is a “speaker” who is leading the discussion and participants. Some rooms have chaperons or monitors who are responsible for maintaining order, but even in some of these rooms what you type is immediately displayed. The monitor can kick someone out of the room who is acting in an inappropriate manner, but he or she may be able to act only after the fact. The monitor can’t, however, prevent you from going off to a private chat area with a person who might do you harm or typing information that could put you in danger.
Did You Know? Chat is probably the most dangerous area on the Internet. As with other areas of the Internet, you don’t know who is there, so never say anything in a chatroom that you wouldn’t say in public.
Beyond that it’s not uncommon for people to make “friends” in chatrooms. You enter a room; start a conversation with someone; and, before you know it, you’ve established a relationship of sorts. That relationship could turn out OK, but there are some not-so-happy stories. Chatrooms are sometimes used by people to exploit others. To put it bluntly, chatrooms – especially those used by teenagers – are sometimes also used by child molesters to find victims. Adults or even older teens seeking to exploit younger people don’t necessarily tell the truth about who they are. Even teens your own age could pose a threat or harass or bully you. You have the right to remain in control of your own experiences, and don’t accept abuse from anyone.
You might meet someone in a room who appears to be sympathetic and understanding and offers you wonderful advice and counsel. If the relationship remains strictly online, that could be OK as long as you’re careful not to give out any personal information.
Caution! It can be tempting to get together with someone you meet in a chatroom, but remember – people are not always who they seem to be. The basic rules for online safety apply to all areas of the Internet, but they are especially important in chat areas. Never give out personal information, and never arrange a face-toface meeting with someone you meet in a chatroom without first checking with your parents and taking the precautions list ed in “Never Get Together With Someone You ‘Meet’ Online”.

3. Instant Messaging
Instant messaging (IM) has become extremely popular among teenagers. It’s a way to stay in touch with friends without having to wait for them to respond to an E-mail. You type a message and the moment you click “send” that message appears on another person’s screen wherever they happen to be. You can exchange instant messages on computers and cellular telephones or between computers and cellular telephones or any other Internet connected devices.
As great as it is, IM can be a dangerous way to interact with people. As with chatrooms, you need to be extremely careful about whom you are “IMing” with and what you are saying. Never give out any personal information in an instant message unless you are 100 percent sure of who is connected. Also be aware that some instant message services make it possible to exchange messages with several people at once — just like a chatroom.

4. Newsgroups, Forums and Bulletin Boards
Newsgroups, sometimes called bulletin boards or forums, are places where you can read and post messages or download or upload files. Unlike chatrooms, newsgroups are not live or “real time.” If you post a message it remains on the newsgroup for people to look at later. Newsgroups can also be used to post files including computer programs, illustrations, pictures, and stories.
Did You Know? There are newsgroups on almost every possible subject, and they are often used as ways to get questions answered and share information about hobbies, musical groups, or any other subject of interest. Unfortunately, newsgroups, like other areas of cyberspace, have risks.
Caution The biggest risk is that you might post something that reveals information about yourself. Even if you are responding to a particular individual’s posting, what you type, in most cases, is available for anyone to see. So, once again, remember the basic rules and never reveal identifying information about yourself. In many cases the mere act of posting something makes your E-mail address public. Even if you don’t say anything revealing, your address will be available for people to send you E-mail that could be bothersome, and newsgroups are a favorite place for people who send out junk mail (“spam”) to gather addresses.
There are newsgroups that contain sexually explicit illustrations, photographs, and stories. In some cases this material may be illegal especially if it contains images of people who are younger than the age of 18 or certain other material that has been defined as “obscene.” Some of this material can be disturbing and should be avoided. It is dangerous to post anything in these types of groups because anything you type reveals your E-mail address that could then reveal your identity or at least subject you to unwanted E-mail. Remember, anytime you post to a newsgroup you are broadcasting your E-mail address, even if you don’t include your actual name.

From: http://www.safeteens.com/safeteens.htm

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