Frustrated teen on internet Uh-oh! Mistakes made on the Internet are often hard to fix. (

Teens’ Top 5 Technology Mistakes

Digital technology is changing every day, so it’s easy to make mistakes with phones and computers

1. Forgetting to Log Out

Daunisha Cost, 18, was using a computer at school and took a break from work to check her Facebook page. “Then I closed the page and left,” she says. The next day, a friend told her she needed to take a look at her Facebook page.

It turned out that someone had accessed Daunisha’s Facebook page on the school computer and messed around with it. What Daunisha forgot is that when you close a window on a computer, you aren’t necessarily logging out of the application you’re using. Someone went to the computer where she’d been working, typed in “,” and Daunisha’s profile popped up.

“They pretended they were me and posted insulting stuff on other people’s pages, and on my status they wrote things that I can’t repeat. Let’s just say they were inappropriate comments,” says Daunisha, a high school senior from Grand Forks, North Dakota. “Luckily, my friends were understanding, but now I make sure I log out every time!” So whether you’re using Facebook or e-mail or checking your bank balance, sign out when you’re finished.

2. Right Message— Wrong Person

Julia Torgerson’s friend was talking about her behind her back. Julia, 16, was upset, so she wrote a text about it to another friend. “But by mistake, I sent it to the person I was talking about,” says Julia, a high school sophomore from Seattle, Washington.

This kind of mess-up is surprisingly common. Three years ago, AOL conducted a survey and found that 32 percent of people had accidentally e-mailed or forwarded an e-mail message to the wrong person. Nobody has done any research, but it’s probably just as common with texting. There’s an “unsend” function in Gmail, but you have to set it up before you make the mistake. There is no way to retrieve a text.

One way to avoid sending a text or e-mail to the wrong person is to type your message first and then select the recipient. That way you’ll be more conscious of the name you choose. What can you do if you make the kind of mistake Julia did? She simply apologized—and it worked. “My friend didn’t talk to me for about a week, but she got over it,” Julia says.

3. Oversharing

“Social media sites are all about getting you to share as much information with your friends as possible so you’ll come back to the site, and they’ll come back to the site, and all of you will look at the ads,” says Amanda Lenhart, who studies youth and technology at the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project. Often, kids will realize too late that they’ve shared too much. Sometimes, it’s photos and videos: They post or e-mail images of themselves doing things that they shouldn’t. Other times, it’s opinions. Recently, a 24-year-old man whose job was to dress up as a mascot for the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team was fired after he criticized the team on his Facebook page.

Lenhart advises thinking critically before sharing anything digitally, and remembering that once something is online, it’s going to be there for a long time. “Be very certain that what you’re sharing is information that you want to share 10 years from now,” she says.

4. Losing Track of Your Phone

Ben Farrell didn’t use his phone much. So when he didn’t see it for a week, he didn’t think much about it. Then the bill came. “My mom asked me if I knew why our bill was $225 higher than usual,” says Ben, a seventh-grader from Brooklyn, New York. “It turned out my phone had been stolen, and I had never realized it.” The thief used the phone to download games and make calls to foreign countries.

If notified promptly when a phone is lost or stolen, most cell phone providers won’t charge you for unauthorized use. So if you don’t know where your phone is, call your cell phone company immediately and put the account on hold. If you find the phone at the bottom of your backpack, you can always reactivate the service.

The possibility of theft isn’t the only reason to keep tabs on your phone. Brianne Thompson, 16, of Seattle, Washington, left her phone at a friend’s house. The friend read Brianne’s texts and found some critical ones about herself. “I should have had a lock code on my phone,” Brianne says. Smart idea! Even smarter: “I shouldn’t have been sending texts about one friend to another friend,” Brianne says. “I should have just talked to her about what was bothering me.”

5. Making Friends With Strangers

When Dominique Weeks gave her cell phone number to a friend of a friend, it seemed like no big deal. “But right away, he started texting me 20 times a day, asking me really weird, inappropriate questions,” says Dominique, 16, of Seattle.

Dominique’s mom helped her solve the problem. Together, they called their cell phone provider to get instructions on how to block texts from the boy’s phone. “Now I’m careful and make sure I really know someone before I give them my number or accept them as a friend on Facebook,” Dominique says.

This article originally appeared in the February 2012 edition of CHOICES. For more from CHOICES, click here.

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