There are a whole host of risks unique to women on the internet. Many women experience sextortion, sexual harassment, cyberbullying, and exposure to sexist sites and social media pages.
Even with these risks, you don’t have to shy away from creating a robust digital presence. You can safely engage online, build a business, grow relationships, and continue fighting to protect your privacy and personhood. Below are practical steps that you can take to stay safe online.
Don’t Share Your Personal Information Online
Sometimes you have to share your personal information online, like a credit card number when making a purchase, your email address for a newsletter signup, or your name when filling out forms. But other than when necessary, don’t share your personal information online. Use a nickname whenever possible. Avoid making your phone number and email address public. Don’t save your credit card information on the e-commerce sites you frequent. It may also serve you to invest in a PO Box for your small business or to keep your home address private.
Put a Cap on How Much Time You Spend Online
A brilliant way to protect your digital presence is to put a cap on how much time you spend online. When you spend a lot of time online, you’re more susceptible to cyberbullying, harassment, getting hacked, or being sucked into dangerous conversations and groups.
Don’t spend more time online than you need to. Give yourself a time limit for each day and log off entirely once that time is up. Putting a cap on how much time you spend online limits the opportunities for security breaches and helps you live a fuller life offline.
If you’re a remote worker, this may look a little different as you must spend quite a bit of time online. You’re also likely using your camera a lot for video conferencing and online meetings. Most people don’t realize cybercriminals can hack the cameras on their devices. But they absolutely can.
You must prevent camera hacking and malicious attacks on your digital presence while working from home. Installing antivirus software, using strong passwords, and understanding the security settings for your webcam will help. You may also choose to place a cover over your webcam when not in use.
Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
A VPN establishes a secure connection when using a public Wi-Fi source. It ensures the information you share is encrypted and can’t be intercepted by hackers or others on the same network.
Limiting your use of public Wi-Fi is a smart move because cybercriminals have an easier time intercepting information that comes across these connections. However, sometimes public Wi-Fi is all you’ve got. When that’s the case, do your best to use a VPN.
VPNs also come in handy when looking to protect your information when browsing at home. Even if you’re on a private network, your information still may be able to be accessed by cybercriminals. Using a VPN puts a barrier between your sensitive info and these hackers, hiding your IP address, browsing activity, and personal data.
Be Mindful Of What You Post On Social Media
Many women enjoy spending time on social media — particularly to amplify female voices on social platforms. In addition, you may share a lot about what you are doing, how you’re doing it, and where you’re located. This is potentially dangerous, especially if you share your location or post your exact plans.
Be intentional about everything you post on social media. For example, refrain from sharing your exact location, phone number, and any additional personal information. Don’t engage with others on social media negatively, either. It’s not worth the temporary satisfaction if you’re making yourself vulnerable to people with nefarious intentions.
Being mindful of what you post on social media and online generally can save you from some unpleasant, unsafe experiences in the digital (and physical) world.
Report Inappropriate Online Behavior
Unfortunately, most women will experience something online that threatens their safety and security. From cyberbullying to harassment to trolling, inappropriate online behavior happens. And though men are slightly more likely to say they’ve experienced online harassment, women are more likely to experience sexual harrassment or even stalking.
It’s helpful to women everywhere to expose this behavior. If you ever experience inappropriate online behavior or see it directed at someone else online, report it. Most websites and digital platforms have ways for you to report threats, harassment, stalking, bullying, inappropriate exchanges, revenge porn, fake news, and so forth. Reporting inappropriate online behavior makes the digital world a safer place for you and every other woman that engages in it.
Stay on Top of Your Digital Presence
Staying safe online requires an ongoing effort. People are likely to become more involved in the digital world in the future, which means there will be new vulnerabilities popping up. This increased reliance on technology can be useful as long as you are prepared to protect yourself from cybercrimes.
Stay on top of your digital presence. Know which digital platforms you have profiles on and secure them. Delete any that you aren’t active on. Engage with others responsibly and always run things through a checklist before posting. Keep up with online safety trends. It’s even a good idea to Google yourself every so often to see what comes up.
As we become a more technology-driven world, it’s imperative to stay on top of everything you do online to maintain your safety and security.
Trust Your Gut
It’s crucial to trust your gut when doing anything online. Cybercriminals are getting savvier with how they steal personal and business information to carry out malicious acts that disrupt digital platforms, networks, and, ultimately, people’s lives.
This makes it that much more important to pay attention to the details and trust the feeling something just isn’t right whenever it surfaces. When it doesn’t feel right, don’t continue it — whether it’s a conversation, a purchase, a signup form, a suspicious link, an invasive request, or a poorly worded email. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Staying safe online is integral for everyone. However, women have unique risks to consider when engaging on digital platforms. Be mindful of them and use the tips above to ensure you’re adequately protecting yourself online.
About The Author
Ainsley Lawrence is a freelance writer from the Pacific Northwest. She enjoys writing about the ways technology, education, and wellness intersect and impact our everyday lives. She is frequently lost in a good book.