Learn about llamas, read up on your favorite skateboard star, or study a stegosaurus.
You can do all these things online and then email or text your best friend about it.
That's why the Internet is amazing! But it also has some things you need to watch
Who Are You Online?
You're always you, of course. But if you use a smartphone, tablet, or computer
to play games and text with friends, you also have an online identity. Games and websites
might let you create a profile picture that represents you. It's fun to dress up that
character and maybe give it a sense of style you'd never try at school.
Apps and websites also let you choose your own username. If you want to be known
as King_of_Ketchup, that's your new name. So if you start calling yourself the King
of Ketchup, does that mean you really like ketchup? Should you tell your new online
friends how much you love ketchup? That's up to you, but it brings up a good point:
How much should you share about your real self online?
You may feel fine telling your best friends about your biggest crush, but what
if the whole school could see your poem about your crush's beautiful eyes? What if
strangers could see it?
There are rules about being online, just like there are rules about what you do
and say in other places. It's important you learn the rules so you can play safely
Keep Your Privacy
Anybody who uses the Internet has been asked to sign in, log in, or create a profile.
Kids need to check with a parent or grown-up before doing so. Why? This information
could be used for reasons you wouldn't like, like getting a lot of junk email.
Another word about email: If you have your own account, let your mom or dad know
before you reply to email that asks for your personal information. Some email looks
official, but it's actually a trick to get your personal info.
Another way to keep your privacy is to choose a screen name or email account name
that isn't your real name. For instance, instead of "Jack_Smith," why not choose "Sk8boardKing21"?
Only your friends and family will know your code name!
Social Media and Strangers
Maybe you're allowed to use your phone to send texts or watch videos. As you get
older, you might get interested in social media sites. These usually have a minimum
age (13 years), but many kids look at these sites before they're 13.
Social media sites let you text, share photos, play online games with friends,
and tell people as much or as little about yourself as you want. But they also can
let you meet strangers. It might seem fun to make new friends, but do not communicate
with strangers you meet online. Don't talk to them, agree to phone them, or email
them photos of yourself.
To a kid, this can seem kind of silly. The writer might seem really nice and tell
you how you sound really smart and cute. Unfortunately, kids have been tricked online
by people who pretend to be something that they're not. Someone might lie and say
they're in sixth grade too, when they're really all grown up. Some kids have found
themselves in a dangerous situation when they agreed to meet the mysterious online
"friend" in person.
Let your parents know if a stranger emails you, sends a text message, or starts
a conversation with you online. A grown-up should decide what's best to do, which
may include changing your email address or telling the police. In general, if you're
thinking about creating an account on a social media site, talk with your mom or dad
When you're using the computer, it can be tempting to hide behind a username to
play a joke on someone by teasing the person or pretending to be someone else. Or
maybe you're angry with someone and it's easier to say something mean if the person
doesn't know it's you.
Just like in the real world, it's mean and hurtful to do stuff like that online.
Even if you're only kidding, they might not know that you're only joking and they
might be very hurt or angry by what you said. It's a lonely feeling when you don't
know who's messing with you. Is it someone just being funny or does the person really
Whether they're strangers or friends, the rule is: Be kind online.
Schools, teachers, and parents are all getting stricter about what is OK or not OK
to send as a message on your phone or computer.
Here's a good test: If you wouldn't say it to someone's face, don't say it to the
person on the computer. And just like with regular bullying,
tell a grownup if you or someone you know is being upset in this way.
Rules to Follow
If you're a kid who likes to have fun and chat with friends online, here's how
you can stay safe and avoid problems:
Stick to safer sites. Your parents and teachers can guide you
to the best sites for you. Some sites have age restrictions, so you might be tempted
to lie about your age. It's safer to tell the truth and avoid those sites until you're
Guard your passwords. If someone can sign in as you, you have
no control over what they do or say. And everyone will think it's you! So don't share
your passwords with anyone except your parents.
Limit what you share. Never tell a stranger where you live or your phone number.
If you're not sure if you should share something, ask a parent. Remember that anything
you put online or post on a site is there forever, even if you try to delete it. If
you wouldn't want your entire class to know or see something, you shouldn't share
it with anyone online, not even your best friends.
Don't be mean or embarrass other people online. Just like you,
there's a real person attached to that screen name who has feelings too.
Always tell if you see strange or bad online behavior. Tell an
adult right away if someone says something to you that makes you uncomfortable. Also
tell an adult if you see anyone bullying or saying strange stuff to other kids.
Be choosy about your online friends. Some sites let kids make
lots of friends with people they don't know. But online friends are not the same as
real in-person friends. Never agree to meet an online friend in person or give out
personal information about yourself. It's dangerous because some people pretend to
be kids online but actually are creepy adults.