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Due to the lapse in government funding, only websites supporting excepted functions will be updated unless otherwise funded. As a result, the information on this website may not be up to date and the agency will not be able to respond to inquiries until appropriations are enacted.

Updates regarding government operating status and resumption of normal operations can be found at

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Safe surfing

.gov screen.

Can I trust everything that I read on the Internet? arrow top

The answer is NO! Being able to tell if something on the Internet is true or real is tough for adults and even harder for teens. Some of what's out there is good information, but some of it is just plain wrong. Everyone must first question the source. So, how can you tell what information is okay and what isn't okay? Here are some general tips on how to tell if the web site and information is reliable:

  • Web sites that end in .gov are generally reliable because they are connected with our government.
  • Look for the name of the organization, the author of the web site, and when the information was updated. Reliable web sites often have a list of references or contacts so you can find out where the information came from.
  • If you’re looking for facts, check out a few different web sites to compare information. If you’re in doubt, double check the facts at your local library. This way you will know which web sites give you correct information.
  • Ask your teachers about reliable web sites to go to for homework help. Once you find a reliable web site, you can bookmark it so you can easily find it later.
  • Ask your doctor or school nurse about web sites to go to for reliable health information. When you get a recommendation from a professional, it most likely will be a web site with information you can trust.
  • Reliable web sites usually have reliable links — so when you get lucky and find a great web site, you may get to know other good sites too.

What do I do if I accidentally get to a web site I shouldn't see? arrow top

If you end up at a site that you know is not for you, click the "Back" button on the top of the screen. This will bring you back to the original web site that you were viewing. If you get "pop-ups" (usually small windows with unwanted ads), just keep closing the windows by clicking the X button until you are back on the original screen that you were looking at. You should tell your parents/guardians what the web address was so that they can block the site from your computer. Many web browsers track web activity to make an Internet history. Your parents/guardians may be able to check what web sites you have looked at and remind you not to go to any sites that are not for teens.

What should I know about downloading information? arrow top

Files downloading on a computer screen.It's possible to download all sorts of information, programs, and music from the Internet. After you have your parent/guardian's permission to download something, be sure that you know exactly what you are downloading and where the download is from, before you do it. If you don't know who is sending you the information, don't download it because it may have a virus, which can damage the computer.

  • If you accidentally begin downloading something, push the "Stop" button at the top of your screen. This will stop the download from completing and will cancel the process.
  • Make sure you have an updated version of virus protection software on your computer.

How can I protect my computer from viruses and other threats?

There are a lot of things you can do to keep your computer safe from viruses! You may need an adult’s help for some of these, though. Ask a parent or a teacher for help if you’re not sure!

  • Use a high-quality anti-virus program and make sure it’s active on your computer.
  • Keep your computer current by installing updates properly (you may need a parent’s help with this!)
  • Backup your files regularly (like once a week).
  • If you use your USB drive on public computers, like your school computer lab or the public library, make sure you scan it for viruses. You could pick up a virus from another computer that way.
  • Be very careful of email attachments. Never open attachments from people you don’t know well. Also, be careful of attachments from people you do know but weren't expecting or appear strange. Trust your instincts!
  • Use text email if possible. While HTML email is prettier and allows you more control over formatting it also can carry computer viruses. If you use text based email the only way to get a virus is by opening an attachment.
  • Be careful of links in IM or instant messaging software. Don't accept invitations from people you don't know and never click a link from someone you don't trust.

What if I suspect a link is a computer virus?

If you think a link may be a computer virus but you’re not sure, you can visit is a web site that provides information about the truth or falsehood of various urban legends, including computer viruses and email scams. Many popular viruses are reported on this web site. If the link that worries you is listed, then you will know not to click on it.


Content last reviewed September 22, 2009
Page last updated October 31, 2013