This post was written for the Nerdfighteria IRC network and the original copy is here.
There are enough internet safety pages out there to sink a large Mediterranean island or two, but this one is a little different this one is focused on nerdfighters, but especially our minors and some of the places we love to hang out.
The Community in General
Members of the Nerdfighteria come from all over the world and are of all ages, colours and creeds. This is awesome, no arguing with that, but a community so big and so varied comes with it’s own risks. Often communities so large attract predators looking for minors and while the moderators of each element of the community will be on the watch, we can’t be everywhere. Be careful what you tell people you do not know well or feel uncomfortable with. ALWAYS tell a moderator if you’re being harassed or hit on and it’s making you uncomfortable, especially if you are a minor and the other person is not. Our irc network has come up against this already. Other problems can be just general trolls and the classic stalker. Again, tell a moderator what’s happening, this sort of behaviour is not acceptable anywhere, don’t stand for it.
If necessary, find out how to block or ignore the person in question. Most social networking sites and chat rooms have some form of option for this.
IRC is a bit like multiplayer notepad. it’s text based chat using a protocol that’s been around since about 1988. On top of the basic people issues listed above, IRC has the potential issues of botnets (groups of clients who connect under the control of one person to harass users or interrupt the general running of the network as a whole. unfortunately there is little a regular user can do about this aside from letting a moderator (in this case an IRCop) know most networks will have a channel called #help or one named after the network where you can talk to the IRCops and get their help with troublesome users. On many networks it is expected that this should only be used if channel operators are unable to control the user, are unavailable or the issues are being caused in multiple channels. dftba.net is currently small enough that this is not required. Our staff also sit in #yourpants, so you can give us a shout there, too.
Mibbit, and other web-based irc clients are popular at the moment but for those users who have downloaded a client you need to make sure that you keep that client up to date malicious users will often find exploits in your client and use them to their own advantage, this can include installing a botnet client on your machine, an issue that can rapidly result in bans from various IRC networks.
The unique issues of Youtube are related to the fact that you’re putting yourself online in the form of video. This can give members of the community and the Youtube community at large information about you that you may not be intending to give, things like your name, location. Basically be smart about what you put in your profile and what you let show in a video. Be liberal with the block button if people are harassing you or generally increasing world suck, and remember that it’s your channel and to keep it safe for yourself.
Facebook and G+
Both these sites require (to varied extents) that you use your real name so makes sure you’re careful. Both sites have age requirements which while regularly flouted should be taken into account. If you feel you’re not ready for these sites do not sign up. They’ll still be there when you’re older. Once you do sign up and make your profile, think carefully about who you want to be able to see what. This runs the full spectrum from totally restricted to friends (who you choose to add – do NOT let someone pressure you into adding them) to totally public. The sites allow you to select more to less trusted friends and put them in groups so that what they see is limited by their group. Read the help pages and learn all about the security options and set them as soon as you can.
This blogging site is very popular with the nerdfighter community but as far as internet safety is has one small issue. You can only make your blog private (password protected) if you do this when you make it. You can however, limit/prevent people asking you questions or commenting on your posts. But they can still reblog to make comments. However if you simply just don’t want to see what people are saying, this works well enough.
Twitter and Foursquare
These sites to more (4sq) or less (twitter) use location unlike Facebook and G+ which use a general “near x” sort of location, these sites use specific location through GPS. this is not always a wise thing. In twitter you can simply turn the gps option off or make your twitter feed private. On foursquare, however, the whole point IS to tell people where you are. Tips here are be wise about you who add, and where you link your checkins to. Foursquare also has a few options related to who it can tell about your checkins on https://foursquare.com/settings/privacy if you’re not comfortable with your location being announced on your friends twitter because they’ve checked in with you or to the owner of your current location, you can turn these options off. You can also check in off the grid which means you get the points for the check in but it wont be announced to anyone and you cannot get a mayorship for that particular check in.
If Matters Get Out of Hand
If a user is harassing you over multiple sites or making threats, you have a couple of options. Using the privacy options of the site is a starting point, as is reporting them to a moderator, but if they go to far consider reporting them to their ISP and/or talking to your parents or a trusted friend for support. If they threaten you with harm and you have reason to believe they might go through with it, consider speaking to the police and making it known you’ve done so, it may be that the police can act on the basis of a threat but the fact that you’ve talked to the police can be a deterrent to some people.
Be Safe, Have Fun and DFTBA!
This post is from my old blog, it was originally posted on May 20th, 2012