New Year’s resolutions come in many shapes and sizes – from vowing to hit the gym five times a week, to kicking your over-spending habits to the curb. But when brainstorming your list of things to be mindful of in 2016, you may forget to re-evaluate your online life.
Here are some digital New Year’s resolutions you might want to consider making this year:
Try a digital detox every now and then
No surprise here – we’re addicted to our devices and social media. And though we might not like to admit it, we all fall victim to the time-suck that is the Internet.
This is probably why a growing number of people and celebrities are taking a break from their online activities – a digital detox of sorts.
Take pop star Ed Sheeran, for example. Earlier this month he announced he was taking a break from social media after he said he was beginning to see the world through the pixels of a screen rather than his own eyes. Nicki Minaj, Miley Cyrus and Jennifer Love Hewitt have all made similar moves.
READ MORE: Do you need a social media detox?
Even if it’s just for a weekend, you might find a digital detox to be quite freeing.
This can also be a resolution you work up to. Try asking your friends to leave their phones in the middle of the table when out for dinner or drinks, that way real conversation can flourish. Make it interesting by making it a game – first person to touch their phone buys the next round.
Eventually, you might be brave enough to go an entire week or month without your device.
While you’re at it, you might want to consider setting a digital bedtime for yourself. Most experts recommend you should avoid looking at screens of any type – yes that means smartphones, tablets and TVs – at least an hour before bedtime.
Turns out, stimulating your brain with texting or social media sites can disrupt your sleep.
Get password smart
2015 was another record year for data breaches, from Ashley Madison to electronic toy maker VTech. If there is one lesson we can take away from these hacks, it’s that secure passwords are no longer a “should have” but a “must have.” Here are some password basics:
Stay away from easy-to-guess passwords like “123456″ or “password” and easy-to-guess identifiers, like your dog’s name.
Numbers included in a password should never be something easy to guess based on the user. That means your age, the current year, or your address are not good choices. Similarly, the longer the password the better.
Passwords that use up to ten upper- and lower-case letters mixed with numbers are proven to be more secure – despite being hard to remember.
One tip is to construct a password from a sentence, mix in a few upper case letters and a number – for example, “There is no place like home,” would become “tiNOplh62.”
And remember, try not to use the same password for any two accounts.
Learn how to protect yourself from cyber criminals
While you’re on the path to good password security, why not brush up on your cyber crime fighting skills?
Take phishing scams, for example. One of the most common ways that fraudsters will try to fool you is by using official company logos or insignias. In some cases, the email address or web address may look close to the company’s name, but is slightly altered or off by a letter.
This tip is especially important: Never click on a link included in a suspicious email. Often attackers will use a legitimate web address in the hyperlinked text of the email, but once you click on the link it takes you to a malicious website. To check a link, hover your mouse over it – without clicking on it – and a small yellow box will appear, showing the actual web address the link will take you to. If the link doesn’t match the hyperlinked text, it’s likely malicious.
Bonus: If you are planning to enter any sort of personal or financial information on a webpage, make sure you are using a secure connection. These are usually identified by a closed padlock symbol in the top left hand side of your web browser beside the URL. Sites with secure connections should start with “https” in the URL – “s” stands for “secure.”
Don’t take it so seriously
It’s really easy for the line between real life and our online lives to become blurry; but remember, social media isn’t everything.
Forget the number of “likes” you get on your latest Instagram picture; ignore the pressure to constantly update your Facebook status or Twitter feed. And, please, don’t freak out when your favourite website/app/online service goes down like people did here and here and here.