10 things Gen Y do online.. and shouldn't.

10 things Gen Y do online.. and shouldn't.

Summary: Ten things that young people do online.. and how they really should know better.


The Generation Y. A generation that has grown up with the buzz of ringtones in their ears, eyes glued to various screens and computer monitors, and have no doubt on more than one occasion shoved a parent aside on the computer because they were 'too slow'.

Yet, there are a number of things that this generation should know not to do, and it still happens -- from falling for a phishing scam to trusting self-generated company product reviews.

What are ten common mistakes we make online?

1. Assume our online activity is anonymous

Whether it is posting a comment on an article, or running a search for a product, your online activity is stored. Upload a video or image, and it is likely to surface at some point on a search engine. One reason why Facebook's new Timeline feature caused issues was the sudden pouring out of closet skeletons -- old posts, comments, likes and event attendance became suddenly accessible to anyone linked to your Facebook account, much to many a young user's embarrassment.

In relation to posting online, whether it is an 'anonymous' blog or commentary on news articles, there has been cases of online users being tracked down and occasionally issued court orders after malicious or illegal activity.

We aren't anonymous. We can try and hide ourselves, and this is possible to an extent -- but our 'real' and digital lives are becoming more closely merged.

2. Believe that social networks are an extension of talking

Consider the recent and harsh example of two teenagers refused entry to the U.S. after one tweeted to his friend that he was going to "destroy America". The conclusion? Both were refused entry to the country and sent packing back to Birmingham.

Governmental bodies are becoming more and more interested in what we're posting on Facebook or tweeting about, so a sensible option is to remember that something you say jokingly to someone else face-to-face can be taken out of context and used against you if stated online.

3. We undervalue our personal data

Much of the web appears free, however, you are trading something very valuable in return for 'free' services.

Personal data.

Your personal information can become a goldmine for businesses, who then target advertising based on your preferences, location, and search history. The more relevant an advert, the more likely you are to be interested, increase their click-through rates and perhaps purchase an item or service -- the basic premise that underlies much of Internet advertising.

It may not be reason enough to stop using Facebook or Google's services, but it is worth keeping an eye on changes in privacy terms, and perhaps even occasionally read the small print that we generally scroll through and ignore.

4. Engage in combat with trolls

A dangerous pastime. The moment you engage with a set of particularly pernicious trolls, you become swept away by a river of irritating, personal and pointless discourse. As tempting as it may be, ignore the snide and personal comments, and avoid the usual anger-filled debate.

Trolls generally have nothing better to do with their time than provoke negative reactions by people they don't know, and if they know they have had an impact on you, it will only get worse. Stay away and save your time for something more constructive.

5. Leave private information in web browsers

For the sake of convenience, we often make our browsers remember passwords, search history and account details. For public computers, this can be an absolute disaster, far more so than someone writing embarrassing status updates through your Facebook account.

On personal computers, keep in mind that if you let someone borrow it for innocuous tasks like checking their email, there may be personal information that can be inadvertently viewed which could lead to embarrassment or a demand for explanation.

6. Copy and paste without references

You're not in kindergarten anymore. You can't get away with copy and pasting work that you like the look of and using it to demonstrate your own point, whether on a poster or in a dissertation. Citation, especially due to the sheer amount of data available online, is a must. There's nothing wrong with analyzing and discussing a point that belongs to someone else -- just make sure that you reference correctly.

See also: The student's guide to Creative Commons and Fair Use.

7. Believe every product review we read

Reviews for the latest beauty product or addition to your hardware collection may not be consumer-based. It is a common practice for businesses to 'self review' for promotion purposes -- or employ individuals to give their products positive reviews through websites such as Amazon or personal blogs. It is worth doing additional research online before you commit to buying.

8. Fall for phishing scams

An ever-increasing number of scams are evolving online -- from malware, keyloggers, or information harvesters, to websites designed for phishing purposes. Yet, we still fall for such scams time after time. As schemes designed to steal your personal information become more sophisticated, even to the point where opening an email could be risky, staying safe online can be more difficult.

If you receive an email worm or virus, chances are its from someone you know who has an infected computer. To try and limit the risk of digital communication, do not open any .exe attachments, and if the email isn't necessary -- delete it.

Anything financial, for example from a bank or a loans company, do yourself a favour and ring them before panicking that your 'account has been suspended' or 'you need to update your details'.

9. Don't backup data

Online storage systems go down all the time, may be at risk of security breaches, or as in the recent case of Megaupload, be seized by authorities. Don't think 'I'll do it tomorrow' -- do it now.

If you are working on a dissertation, don't just keep a copy on your computer. The day before it is due, your device may decide it wants to blue-screen you, and the computer store has just shut for the day. Keep backups of your backups -- on your computer, on a USB drive, a copy of your dissertation notes in the freezer if you have to. Just make sure that if something happens, all is not lost -- in terms of data and your degree.

10. Stick with the same simple, old passwords

Something which is easy to remember is something that is also easy to crack. Keep passwords varied, and try to change them at least once a year. It is also good practice to avoid 'Qwerty' based patterns such as '12345', and to mix capital and lower-case letters. If possible, substitute letters for numbers to add an additional layer of security to your accounts.

See also: Passwords to become fossils by 2017?


Topics: Security, Data Management, Social Enterprise

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  • RE: 10 things Gen Y do online.. and shouldn't.

    4. Engage in combat with trolls

    You know how empty my day would be... nay, my *life* would be if I simply ignored all trolls?
    • RE: 10 things Gen Y do online.. and shouldn't.

      @dsf3g Or indeed how shot this publication's business model would be...
      • RE: 10 things Gen Y do online.. and shouldn't.

        @jeremychappell I was thinking the exact same thing... besides on occasion it's fun to combat the trolls... LOL
  • RE: 10 things Gen Y do online.. and shouldn't.

    "Engage in combat with trolls"

    Yes and no, the lines can be a bit blurry sometimes. Sometimes somebody was just caught in a bad mood, or are perhaps getting too caught up in an argument with [i]other[/i] trolls.

    It's also the case that there are just some open questions for which there is no real answer for, but each side has their own beliefs and there's really never going to be common ground (common in political discussions, moral discussions, and religious discussions). Those discussions can break into trollish behavior easily.

    "Copy and paste without references"

    ZDNet - I'm looking at you. And I'm looking at lots of other news media, both old and new.

    "Believe every product review we read"

    Agreed, and this goes for negative reviews as well as positive ones. Look for patterns, don't focus on only one or two comments. Just because one person had something go wrong doesn't mean that it's a common problem. In a world where millions/billions of people buy products, even a 0.1% chance of something going wrong means many people may be affected, even though statistically speaking it's a good buy.
  • RE: 10 things Gen Y do online.. and shouldn't.

    You forgot sending nudie pics and sexting. These won't just be embarrassing, they could end up with somebody in jail.
    terry flores
  • RE: 10 things Gen Y do online.. and shouldn't.

    Number 6 isn't really very accurate. I've never seen someone straight up copy and paste articles together to make a paper. They change words around and cite the source...but it's still plagiarism. Plagiarism constitutes way more than simply copy and pasting.
    • RE: 10 things Gen Y do online.. and shouldn't.

      @Aerowind Uh, if you cite the source, then NO, it's not plagiarism. That is the age-old way that is taught to avoid being accused of plagiarism: citing your sources. And you'd be surprised. Some people do just straight up copy and paste.
    • RE: 10 things Gen Y do online.. and shouldn't.

      @Aerowind Uh, if you cite the source, then NO, it's not plagiarism. That is the age-old way that is taught to avoid being accused of plagiarism: citing your sources. And you'd be surprised. Some people do just straight up copy and paste.
  • Pretty valid points.

    Best working assumption is that nothing is private on an electronic device.
    Used to be you could suggest someone tell a secret to the oven if they absolutely had to blab something. Nowadays, an oven could connect to the internet and relay whatever you said to the rest of the world. This weekend for a test, I uttered a phrase on the phone during a conversation that if printed here would have the secret service paying me a visit. (Nobody has showed up, yet)

    As for trolls, everyone knows you should never battle trolls without chopping them into little peices and then burning the peices or drenching them in acid; otherwise, they regenerate a new troll from each peice.
  • RE: 10 things Gen Y do online.. and shouldn't.

    Regarding #9: http://notaverb.com/

    (Does this make me troll?)
    • RE: 10 things Gen Y do online.. and shouldn't.

      @phronk According to dictionary.com, it can be used as an adjective, and actually originated from the verb phrase "back up." While I suppose it's technically incorrect usage, I'm not really surprised at this usage.
      • RE: 10 things Gen Y do online.. and shouldn't.

        @CobraA1 I'm not surprised either, since I see it all the time, but it's still wrong since it's not being used as an adjective. :)
    • Well, maybe not a troll, just a picker of nits.

      Per Dictionary.com, under the definition of the word back is a list of verb phrases.

      42. back up,
      g. Computers . to duplicate (a file or a program) as a precaution against failure.

      The single word backup does not have a verb part listed (other than in the computing dictionary), but the phrase back up is a verb phrase according to Dictionary.com. The word backup is listed as an adjective because it describes a noun (i.e. backup generator), but back up is the act (verb) of making a copy of data. If you're doing something (backing up files), back up is a verb phrase. If backup describes a thing (or person or place), it is an adjective. Charlie, though she technically used the wrong word, didn't use it in the wrong way because she was describing an action, which is always a verb.
  • RE: 10 things Gen Y do online.. and shouldn't.

    my classmate's aunt makes $78 an hour on the laptop. She has been fired from work for 5 months but last month her income was $8845 just working on the laptop for a few hours. Go to this web site and read more... LazyCash9.com
  • RE: 10 things Gen Y do online.. and shouldn't.

    Everyone is a troll then
  • Good job Charlie, I write these warnings all the time but yours is better.

    Congratulations on writing a very concise article on what not just Gen Y but all ages should be careful about online.

    I help small businesses and non-profits wend their way through the technology maze. I also have teenagers so I've written advice on how to be careful on social sites and forget the pretense of anonymity. To watch out for serendipitous timing of email sends by spammers such as when you're expecting a package and get a "shipping notice". Call the bank instead of responding to an email about account suspensions.

    One you left out is the notion that using a Mac somehow protects you from scammers.