**This article consists only of guidelines; there may be other precautions that you could take. While taking all of these precautions does NOT guarantee you'll be completely safe, doing them would be a step in the right direction and can help a great deal in keeping you safe.**
We have all heard about Internet safety time and time again. We hear it from our teachers, parents, schools and friends. You're probably absolutely sick of hearing about it, but it is important. Considering the mentioned, you probably already know that there are creepy people online who may be "out to get you", but you may also know that not every person is a creep. The only problem is how to correctly determine who is and who isn't.
Though no-one can be absolutely sure that someone isn't a creep, I will try and give you some helpful hints and tips based on my experiences to try and keep you safe.
1. Don't put ANYTHING too personal online. This includes inappropriate pictures, phone numbers, your address, your full name, email addresses with your full name in them and so on. If you wouldn't want the whole world knowing or seeing it, don't expose it. What's the risk? Not only can predators find it, but family members and future employers can also come across it. How? A simple Google search. Google can pull up practically anything, so as said, be careful with content that you share.
2. Be careful as to where you're giving your information out. Yes, giving it online anywhere is risky and probably not a good idea, but there are places that are totally out of the question. Where? Chat rooms or threads. It has been done many times that people would give out their phone number right in the middle or beginning of a chat or thread, and I must say, doing that is probably 100 times more riskier than doing it in a private message. Why? Because everyone can see it!
3. Make sure you've known the person for a while and have a lot of trust in them. Let's face it, giving someone who you hardly know or trust all of your information is an awful idea. It's an awful idea to give any information to them, actually. You should only even consider this when you really trust them.
4. If possible, don't give out your home phone number. It is very easy to track people that way. Yes, you can find people through their cell phone number, but there is usually more work involved.
5. Be careful with what you believe. Remember, people online can lie about everything just as easily as you could. If someone gives you a reason to doubt their truthfulness or anything at all, be careful. As said before, don't give out information to those who you can't trust.
6. It is usually not recommended that you meet someone from the Internet, however, if you do decide that you want to, be very safe about it. Let someone know that you're doing it, make sure that you meet in a public place, ask someone to go with you and never leave with the person you're there to meet. If you can't get someone to go with you it's fine, but never meet someone without letting someone else know that you are. Take a cellphone with you if that option is available.
The one great thing about the Internet world is we have that absolutely amazing ability to block people, especially on IM services such as MSN Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, AIM and so on. If someone is making you feel uncomfortable, being rude or creepy, block them. Remember, you do not have to listen to any of it. If you're on a website and someone is doing it, report them to an administrator, this also goes for TeenHelp. If someone is making you uncomfortable, being rude or anything of the sort, speak up. Any issue can be dealt with if given the chance.
Doing the opposite of things stated here can set you up for a world of trouble. I hope that you consider some of the things, because really, your safety is important. Stay safe!