Log in to Safety
By Rep. Kristi Noem
Remember the days before you could just Google it? If you wanted to figure out where the most complete skeleton of a T-Rex was found, for instance, you had to go to the library, dig through the card catalogue, find a book about dinosaurs, and fight through the paper cuts to find the answer. That doesn’t need to happen anymore. Through a device that fits in the palm of your hand, you can access the world – and by the same account, the world can access you.
Often times, we choose to allow the world to see a piece of us. It’s that culture of sharing that has resulted in 300 hours of video being uploaded to YouTube every single minute and 70 million photos being posted on Instagram every day. Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat let us share our every thought with followers, while text messaging and email has infinitely increased the speed of written communication.
But like all things, there are smart ways to use these new technologies and some not so smart ways. Earlier this year, I teamed up with Google to offer Rapid City middle schoolers some advice on how to stay safe online. They shared five tips all of us should note.
First, think before you share. Anything you put online – even if it’s done so privately – can be shared. If you don’t want it to get out, don’t post it.
Second, protect your stuff. One of the best ways to do this online is to set strong passwords. HowToGeek.com offers this advice for setting a strong password: Select a password that has 12 characters, minimum. Include numbers, symbols, capital letters, and lower-case letters. Try not to use a dictionary word or a combination of dictionary words. And finally, don’t rely on obvious substitutions, like changing all of the O’s to zeros.
Third, know and use your settings. Around 15 percent of Americans have never checked their social networking privacy or security account settings. These settings let you choose who you are sharing your information with. Check yours out and adjust them as necessary today.
Fourth, understand how to identify and avoid scams. Every year, our office gets calls from dozens and dozens of South Dakotans who have received scam calls from someone pretending to be from the IRS. This is an obvious scam because the IRS will never reach out to you by phone without sending you a letter first. Other times, however, scammers may try to be more devious, posing as someone you know. Maybe they tell you your grandson needs money. If they start asking for personal information, hang up and give your grandson a call – he’ll be able to tell you if it’s legitimate or not.
The final piece of advice that Google offered was to stay positive. Follow the golden rule: Don’t post, comment, or forward something unless you’d be alright with someone doing the same to you.
We live at an incredible time that lets us be more personally connected to the world around us than ever before. I encourage you to take the time and learn how to be safe in this new environment.
Oh, and before you pick up your smartphone to Google more about where that T-Rex was found – I did it for you. It was discovered near Faith, South Dakota in August 1990 – just months before the first webpage was posted to the World Wide Web.
PHOTO: Noem speaks to students at Google Online Safety Roadshow