Cybersafety - Where to Focus


The topic of “cybersafety” is a popular topic lately. We hear about online safety all the time on the news, on the radio, and in school – and many of these stories have to do with sexual assault or exploitation.

Why are we putting "cybersafety" in quotation marks? We want to highligh the things that people can do to increase their safety online, and we found through our work that the term "cybersafety" has a very specific definition that doesn't always include some of the most important things we can do to increase safety - usually, "cybersafety" has to do with "keeping yourself safe." We want to focus on increasing respect, both on and off-line. You will find that we typically use the word "digital safety" to discuss this issue.

 What we know is that safety is important to all of us. Every person has the right to feel safe and secure, and we want to help make that happen. Most people can easily list common safety tips. In our focus groups and surveys of 74 young people in King County, we found that youth were easily able to name common “cybersafety” tips like "don't let anyone know where you live," "don't meet people from the internet," "don't trust that the person you're talking to is being honest about who they are."

However, studies conducted by renowned researcher David Finkelhor show us that many of these familiar tips are not the most important place to focus when trying to increase safety online.  Focusing on different aspects of digital safety will better enable us to be safer not only online, but off-line as well.


Common "Cybersafety" Tips - very familiar

  • "Sharing your real name is dangerous."
  • "You should never 'friend' people you don’t know in real life - they may not be who they say they are."
  • "Don't share where you live or where you go to school because someone could stalk you."
  • "Don't ever meet someone in person who you met online."


Where to Focus - if you want to discuss digital safety, start here!

  • Talking online about sex with people you don’t know in real life can increase your risk ( )
  • Using a sexual sounding screen name or profile name can increase your risk ()
  • Saying rude or nasty things to others online is a risk factor for online dangers ()
  • Going to x-rated sites on purpose can increase your risk ()


To explore more about these myths and facts, you can download Finkelhor’s research here.