Want a safer Internet? Here's how to start

REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

In our constantly-connected digital age, how can you keep yourself and your family safe online? Tech organizations and companies around the world are calling attention to security issues to mark Safer Internet Day, an annual event that aims to encourage better practices for making the Internet a safer place.

Internationally, the day, which is always the second Tuesday in February, is organized by Brussels-based Insafe Network for the European Commission. Since 2014, ConnectSafely.org, a nonprofit devoted to educating people about safety, privacy, and Web security, has served as the day's U.S. coordinator.

"One thing that I always point out, one thing that I always emphasized, is the word 'safer.' The Internet is not 100 percent safe -- all great things have risks associated with them," said Larry Magid, co-founder and CEO of ConnectSafely.org and a CBS News technology analyst. "There are things you have to keep in mind with safety, security, and privacy. [You] have to be careful how you present yourself, have to be careful to use long passwords and practice security -- all of those key points."

One thing that Magid stressed is the importance of being kind online.

"Part of it is respecting yourself and others. Maintaining your own reputation by not posting something that will haunt you," he said.

On Tuesday, ConnectSafely.org is hosting a Safer Internet Day event at the Universal Studios Hollywood Globe Theater in Hollywood. The event is filled with a wide range of celebrity speakers and presentations, all tying into the central theme: "Play your part for a better Internet."

"You used to have worries about predators, but now it's more worry over how people treat each other online," Magid said.

Magid added that safety for young people is one of the key themes this year. From cyber bullying to sexting, he said that young people have to be "empowered" to make the best decisions online.

The recent proliferation of mobile messaging and social media apps has led to increased risks for users young and old -- but especially young, since these apps are so popular with teens.

"Apps have their challenges. You have to be kind of resilient, you have to understand that if someone does say something mean about you, or attacks you somehow online, or if you notice that someone is being harassed -- you have to use common sense for staying safe," Magid stressed.

Magid said it is important that parents be aware of the risks involved with their children using apps and sites that could open them up to harm. And of course, falling prey to malicious attacks online can happen to adults too.

"Most people will not abuse whatever the next great app is," he said. "But some will fall through the cracks, some will abuse it, and it's important that we continue to educate people."

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