It goes without saying that remaining safe online is something we all want, but do you really know how best to stay secure and private? For most, the answer is no—despite the wealth of tools available to help. So we spoke to five teenagers to see how many were following internet security best practices, as well as hear their top tips for staying safe online.
In my conversations, many teenagers are concerned about their internet privacy, but few are utilizing tools to protect their identity online. Out of the five U.S.-based teenagers I spoke to, only one used a VPN to protect their privacy.
Yash, a college freshman from Indiana, relies on Hotspot Shield VPN when accessing the internet: “It is very important because we are on the web so much,” he said, “and it is very easy for other people to find your information and steal it.”
Yash, however, is a rare case of a teen who is using the correct tools to protect his online security. Most teenagers think of VPNs as a way to access restricted content, like blocked games on their school WiFi network. While Hotspot Shield will indeed bypass restrictions, its security benefits are
“Privacy and safety are very important to me when using the internet,” Preeti, 16, from Chicago says. When asked about what technology he uses to ensure his protection, however, he said that he was not sure how to get a VPN or how to use it effectively.
This is a common theme. People care deeply about staying safe online but they’re not adequately educated in the ways in which to achieve this. The reality is that Hotspot Shield is a free app with a single “connect” button that instantly encrypts your WiFi network to keep you safe from hackers and prying eyes.
Mia, a senior in high school, reiterated that “anonymity and personal safety are very important to me. The internet is a platform for many things, but at the same time, it can be a threat and danger to individuals—especially teens.”
It is refreshing to find so many teenagers aware of the threats the internet can pose, but like many of her fellow students, she is not taught in school how to use the internet safely.
While online security and privacy education are certainly lacking, there’s no question that teens are thinking about these issues and care deeply about protecting themselves.
So what tips do they have for their fellow internet users?
1. Use a VPN whenever accessing the internet
Our first tip is from Yash in Indianapolis, IN: “A VPN is used to disguise your actual IP address when using public WiFi or to gain access to things that may be banned in other countries.” A VPN is number one tool you need to stay safe online.
2. Back up your data to the cloud
The second tip is from Jennifer, 16, in Atlanta, GA: “I learned the hard way to back up my photos and videos on an external drive after dropping my phone in the pool during a vacation in Spain.” Don’t rely on your phone as the primary source of storage. Upload your photos and documents to the Cloud or an external hard drive, just in case anything happens to your phone.
3. Secure your devices when traveling abroad
The third tip is from Gian, 13, in Miami, FL: “When traveling abroad, I usually think about my internet safety because I value my private information and would not want it stolen by hackers overseas.” When on vacation, we’re constantly online checking emails, buying tickets to touristy things, or viewing our bank balance to see how much cash we have to spend. Remember: If you’re connected to public WiFi, everything you do online is exposed to anyone connected to that same network. Use Hotspot Shield to secure your connection.
4. Be mindful of what you post
The fourth tip is from Preeti in Chicago, IL: “Be careful what you post online because whatever you do put out
We often hear of celebrities being hacked and their personal images blasted online, but this stuff doesn’t only happen to people like Jennifer Lawrence—it could also happen to you. At the end of the day, corporate data breaches happen all the time, and you can’t be sure that what you post privately will remain private. So always keep that in mind.
5. Limit your use of social media
This fifth tip is from Mia in Seattle, WA: “I believe that teens like me should limit their use of technology and social media. It is easier said than done, but doing things such as spending time with family, friends, going places, and just conversing with others is important.” Mia makes a great point. Take some time off from your