Let's say you need to find out what the capital of Lithuania is. Or maybe you have a burning desire to see some funny cat pictures. Perhaps you need to purchase a used copy of your uncle's favorite Hank Williams record album that you accidentally broke. Where would you go? The Internet, of course!
Yes, the Internet is good for all of these things and so many millions more. In today's connected world, it's nearly impossible to imagine once again living in a world without the Internet. Where would you learn obscure facts? Where would you share pictures of yourself with friends? Where would you buy things?
Of course, there are still libraries, cameras, and stores around, but the Internet has made the way we live our lives so much quicker, simpler, and easier than it was in the past. WONDERing whether to wear a jacket today? No, you don't have to watch the news and wait for the weather forecast to come on. You can just jump online and check the forecast in a matter of seconds.
Along with the good comes the bad, though. The Internet can suck up all your free time. Instead of exercising and playing outside, too many kids are attached to devices and staring at screens. Moreover, some of that time spent online can actually be dangerous. That's why it's important to learn to stay safe when you're online.
If you've never thought of the Internet as a potentially-dangerous place, you need to be aware that, just like in the real world, there are bad people willing to use the Internet to do you harm. Whether it's stealing your personal information or harassing and threatening you (what experts call cyberbullying), these people use all sorts of tricks to turn the Internet into a scary place.
Since people can easily remain anonymous online, it's not difficult for bad people to hide behind fake identities. Never give up your personal information online, and stick to websites that you can trust.
For example, you should never give out the following types of information online: your full name, your address, your phone number, your Social Security number, your credit card number, or your password. Of course, you will have to provide these things when you order merchandise online, but be sure you're dealing with a reputable online merchant first. If you have doubts, confirm with an adult friend or family member before revealing any of this information.
Choose email addresses, screen names, and passwords carefully. Make sure they don't unintentionally reveal personal information about you. For example, don't use your real name as your screen name! Passwords should also be nearly impossible to guess.
If you ever feel like you're being cyberbullied, whether via email or in a chat room online, simply ignore the messages and walk away. Report them to an adult and move on to better things. Life's too short to allow anonymous people make you feel bad via the Internet.
Also, make sure the same Internet safety rules apply to you. Don't do or say things online that you wouldn't do in person. Don't hide behind an anonymous profile to post harassing or threatening comments to or about others. Treat others the way you want to be treated — both in the real world and online.
Finally, remember that the Internet is a vast place, but it has a way of spreading things around very quickly. A good rule of thumb is to assume that anything you might type or post will be seen by everyone and remembered forever. If you wouldn't want a friend or parent seeing something, it's probably something you shouldn't type or post to begin with!