Can the Internet ruin your life? 5 tips to help you avoid online trouble

By Sue Scheff

Sue Scheff

Sue Scheff

It’s a fact of life: people today spend more time digitally connected than ever before. This generation of youth, as well as young adults and parents, are having to deal with peer cruelty through cyberspace (also known as cyberbullying).

A new Syfy network television series, The Internet Ruined My Life presents two stories each week of average people who had their lives turned upside down due to cyber-blunders.

What can we learn from the victims of this show?

The series definitely outlines cautionary tales of people that have been severely affected. As you are watching it you wonder, how this can happen. Why can’t the police help — or even the FBI, in some cases — step in?

We know that the laws are slow to catch up with cyberspace, but when you watch these stories it’s an opportunity for the series to offer more of a commentary after each segment to advise the audience on what they could do to prevent this from happening to them. What laws are existing since cyberbullying and revenge porn laws are starting to be put in place in some states? It’s up to you to know what course of action there is and to be proactive with your cyber-smarts — no matter how old or young you are.

5 Tips for Digital Protection and Cyber-Prevention

1)  Be a good digital citizen. It’s time adults turn into grown-ups.

  • Curb your digital sharing habits.
  • Create lists to share your personal pictures with. Your kids are not public property. They don’t need to be in public newsfeeds.
  • De-clutter your friends lists regularly.

2)   Privacy settings and security.

  • Make a habit of frequently checking your settings on all your social platforms.
  • Change your password regularly, use a strong one and never give it out.
  • Keep your cell phone password protected.

3)  Be aware of your online landscape.

  • Set and maintain a Google Alert with your name.
  • Search your name regularly online — be proactive.
  • Keep your online social media profiles updated.

4)  Learn the laws of the Internet.

  • Information about cyberbullying laws.
  • Revenge porn laws.
  • If you are being harassed online, always save the evidence. If you do need to file anything with the authorities, they will need this.

5)  Dealing with a troll.

  • Don’t engage, and encourage your friends and family not to retaliate on your behalf. The harasser feeds off of any attention they get.
  • After you have copied the evidence, block the perpetrator.
  • Report the perpetrator to the site provider. Copy and paste how they have violated the Terms of Service or Code of Conduct, and politely ask them to remove the harasser.
  • Tell a friend. You don’t have to handle this alone. Emotionally you can feel powerless and hopeless. As both a victim and survivor — I’m here to tell you, you’re not alone. Don’t be embarrassed or ashamed. You need your support system. Take care of yourself — people do care.

Whether you are watching The Internet Ruined My Life or not, being proactive online with your digital etiquette is necessary and will help prevent some cyber-disasters. To believe that you wouldn’t be one of these average people, is being naive. It happened to me, it can happen to anyone — actually when you least expect it.

Visit Connect Safety Safety Tips and Advice for more resources.

Sue Scheff is an author and parent advocate. She founded Parents’ Universal Resource Experts, Inc in 2001. You can find Sue on Twitter at @SueSheff. Read more about her here.