Staying Safe This Summer 2019

Summer is here and we’re so ready for all of our amazing upcoming events: a Wine Night at Sloan & Williams, yoga classes in the park every 3rd Saturday, and our Annual Benefit Concert in August to top it all off!

However, we also want to keep you guys up to date with the most relevant information on how to stay safe, on and offline! Our first talking point: online harassment and how to prevent and report it.

Online harassment has unfortunately become commonplace, especially for women. A study by Pew Research reports that 41% of adults have been harassed online, with about 66% witnessing the harassment. About 18% (1 in 5) Americans have experienced serious harassment, including both physical and sexual threats, as well.

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In addition, types of online harassment disproportionately affect women. 21% of women ages 18 to 29 report being sexually harassed online, which is twice as high as men of the same age group. 51% of women in this same age group report being sent unprompted sexually explicit images. Again, although many women experience sexual harassment online as being “the norm,” a significant percentage understandably recall the harassment as being remarkably upsetting.

So, how do we protect ourselves from harassers, stalkers, and general online creeps? We’re here to talk about that.

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  1. Protect your information

    • Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook all have amazing privacy features that limit who can access your information and posts. We highly recommend making private accounts in addition to public, personal accounts. This way, you can more easily limit what information you decide to keep public.

    • Geotagging is incredibly popular nowadays, but we often don’t stop to think about who could be viewing that location. Twitter has a feature that marks the location of where a tweet was sent. Facebook might even be tracking your locations over an extended period of time. To check it out, go to Settings, click Location on the panel on the left, and then click View location history. A map will appear along with with a log showing your location, possibly over several years. While this might be useful for advertising purposes, it certainly is not useful as a young man or woman trying to stay safe online. Luckily, you can delete this information and turn off location services.

    • Although it may not seem necessary if you were raised in the midst of the digital age, using different information to start your accounts (a junk email, a childhood address, or disconnected phone number) can prevent stalking and the more severe “doxing.” Doxing, as witnessed in the 2014 “gamergate,” is when one’s private information (phone number, address, etc.) is released publicly. Again, this might not seem relevant, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Also, there is the very real threat of having your information discovered by an individual with bad intentions. Still don’t believe us? Try googling yourself and your personal information. You’d be surprised what you accidentally left up on that Facebook profile you never check or that Twitter account you thought you deleted.

  2. Protect your accounts

    • To prevent your accounts from being hacked in the first place, make sure to use a secure, strong password. Do not share this password and do not make it easily accessible (i.e., in the notes of your phone.)

    • Use two factor authentication when available. Having your cell number in addition to an email attached to the account can thwart hackers in their tracks. It might be obvious, but never opt out of security alerts- you’d be surprised how and when your security can be compromised.

    • Watch out for third party apps that require other social media log-ins. Always err on the side of caution when using Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to log in to an app that you are unfamiliar with. In addition, watch out for shortened URLs that might guide you off of your current platform into unfamiliar territory. These can lead you to malicious, unsafe sites.

  3. Report harassment

    • Always report harassment on social media. It’s usually anonymous and easy to do. For example, on Twitter, it’s as easy as clicking on the user’s profile or the upside down carrot to fill out a quick report. There’s a good chance that you are not the only person who has received this type of harassment and, by building a case against their account, you could possibly aide in preventing future cases, at least on that platform. Again, for emphasis: report if possible.

    • The block button exists for a reason. We suggest you use it liberally! There’s no reason to allow someone who has made it clear that their intentions are not good to continue to view your profile. Even if you know them personally, block, block, block away.

    • Some social media sites have started adding “Restricted Lists.” Basically, if someone is insisting you add them on Facebook in person or perhaps is someone you are unable to block due to personal ties, you can add them to this list so that they can only see what you post publicly. They will be listed as a friend, but won’t know they are restricted from viewing most of your information. Instagram and Snapchat have features that allow you to customize who views your story, without changing the “friendship” status of the account. These are sneaky ways to make sure that people you do not trust personally do not see what you are up to.

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To conclude, it is always better to be safe than sorry. It is unfortunate that we have to protect ourselves in this way in this day and age. Women especially have to be careful of how they carry themselves online, who they allow to access their information, and just how much they share in their daily lives. We sincerely wish it wasn’t so and will continue to our personal best to keep this world progressing forward.

Be safe this summer! We’ll keep you up to date with what we’re doing, so you can continue to have fun while supporting the survivors in our local area.