19 Ways to Live a Great Digital Life at University
Heading off to university is a huge shift, full of new discoveries, adventures, and opportunities. It can also be a confusing time with so much to learn, including new ways to use technology.
You’ll start using your phone and laptop in different ways – you’re now responsible for your finances, your friendships, and online security. It’s not as hard as it sounds, as long you’re prepared from the very beginning.
To help you live your best digital life as a student, we’re going to look at:
- The risks you can face online;
- How you can prevent or mitigate online risks as a student;
- A list of tools that will help keep you safe.
Let’s get into it!
What risks do students face online?
During your time at school, you’ll hopefully already have learned some of the dangers of online life. Becoming a university or college student can make these risks more of a reality.
Here’s a rundown of the common online issues you’ll need to know about:
- Phishing – This is when someone sends you an email pretending to be a company and trying to get your security data from you. As an adult, your data becomes more valuable so you might start to see more phishing emails asking for your banking data or social media logins, for example.
- Malware and viruses – the dodgy programs that end up on your computer when you download things from untrustworthy sources. Your computer can get infected, will start to work slower, and could even go completely kaput.
- Ransomware – a particular type of malware that encrypts all your data until you pay to unlock it. Imagine this happens the night before your thesis submission?!
- Card fraud – online criminals get hold of your card details and start to buy things for themselves online. You could end up with no cash in your bank or huge credit card bills and all the headache that comes along with fixing that.
- Dodgy dating – people lie about who they are and their true intentions on dating apps. At uni, you might want to get out there and start dating and people can take advantage of your naivety.
How to stay safe online as a student
In 2020, there were 136 online crimes in India every day. The internet sounds like a scary place as an adult – there are so many new things to be concerned about.
We’ve got some top tips for you to stay protected and live your best digital life as a student.
As important as your Year 12 physics homework felt, it’s nothing compared to the assignments and essays you’ll write that go towards your final grade.
The data you keep on your computer is precious, so you need to keep it safe and backed up:
- Use a cloud storage system: keeping your data locally and on the cloud will give you peace of mind that your homework is always safe.
- Schedule automatic backups: once you have your cloud storage sorted, you need to make sure everything actually gets stored there! Check the tool settings and force regular uploads.
- Store your chat history: make sure your chat services like WhatsApp are set for regular backups. Whether you’ve traded class notes or confirmed an extension, being able to restore your chat history when you get a new device is crucial.
- Use 2-factor authentication: 2fa is the system that sends you a code or an app notification when you buy something or log in to a sensitive account. Se this up on everything you use so only you can access data and spend money.
A secure connection
No one wants malware and viruses on their computer, so you need to make sure your internet connection is secure.
You’ll find yourself sharing networks a lot at uni – in the library, taking lecture notes in class, in your dorm accommodation.
- Use a VPN: this will change the location it looks like you’re browsing from, making it nearly impossible for your online activity to be tracked.
- Set your VPN to start when your computer does: you want to be secure every time you connect to the internet. Having it as a startup or boot process will make sure you never forget.
- Change your VPN country: missing your favorite TV shows from home when studying abroad? Want to check out the hottest shows in the States? Changing the country you browse from is easy and can get you access to different online content for those lazy days.
A stable connection
Your parents probably kicked your siblings off their devices so you could get your homework done on a strong, stable internet connection at home.
There’s no one to choose who gets priority on the shared networks you use and you don’t want to miss a homework deadline because of slow internet.
- Do a speed test: if you’re experiencing painfully slow internet access, check what your connection speed is – this is the first step to see if your connection is being throttled by the ISP
- Connect to your VPN and do another speed test: if the speed goes up, you know your connection is being slowed because of too much gaming or video streaming. Your trusty VPN will help get around this.
Be up to date
Class schedules, study sessions, assignment deadlines; there’s a whole bunch of things you need to keep up to date with. Your online life is no different, you need to keep your apps, software, tools, and operating systems up to date to prevent any security glitches from being exploited by cybercriminals:
- Download from trusted sources: be aware of where you get your downloads from and make sure they’re trustworthy. Go direct to company websites on your computer and download from App Store or Play Store directly on your phone or tablet.
- Set auto-updates: your computer and phone can normally automatically update when a new version comes out, be sure to check your settings so this happens without having to remember.
- Don’t ignore OS updates: it’s easy to ignore the orange dot on Windows telling you it’s time to update before shut down. Take the update and you’ll be sure your computer will live to slay another day.
Know your scams
At home, you have your parents to run ideas by, like whether to take a job or if buying something new is a good investment.
As a student, you have more agency, and sadly more chance to get ripped off – 44% of Americans aged 20-29 have been the victim of a scam. You can be savvy and protect yourself:
- If it’s too good to be true, it probably is: you’ll know this already, so make sure your stick by it and always be skeptical about offers and deals that don’t feel quite right.
- Don’t hand over money quickly: you might have people approach you as a broker and struggling student and offer you a get rich quick scheme trading foreign exchange (forex) or crypto, or selling cosmetics. These tend to be scammy – check with your parents or speak to the pastoral care team at uni if you’re not sure.
- Check the URL: when you see adverts for huge discounts on designer goods, make sure your check where you’re buying from. The website may be a scam and the URL being different from the original company one will be a huge giveaway – always go direct to the company’s own site.
- Beware of catfishing: online dating sounds fun, but it can be full of pitfalls. Anyone who is too keen too soon could be trying to trick you into giving them money or signing up for a scam. Confirm their identity with a video call and if you meet, do it in public and in daylight with a friend aware of where you are.
Studying from home
Life and education after the pandemic have changed a lot.
It is now way more common for you to be asked to study from home, where you get more pajama action but might struggle to be comfy and healthy:
- Get good lighting: your online classes are likely during the day, so make sure you open your curtains and get some natural light while you study. This will help you stay awake and focused on your learning.
- Have a separate workspace: yes, it’s tempting to lie in bed with your laptop listening to lectures – we get it. It’s not so great for your mental health, though. Having a place where you study and a different place to chill and sleep will make sure your digital life keeps you mentally stable.
- Remove social media apps: having WhatsApp, Messenger, Discord, TikTok, etc, on your laptop you use for study is distracting. The constant dinging of notifications can lead you down Procrastination Alley! Remove these apps and keep them on your phone so you have another level of separation.
Top tools to live your best online life
There are tools out there that can help you follow all of our guidance for students heading off for university.
This is our student toolkit for being safe and savvy online:
- A VPN such as Surfshark will keep your connection secure and help work around speed throttling on shared connections
- Cloud storage with services like Dropbox or Google Drive gives you the online space to store your homework and photos of uni life – paying for a service will upgrade your storage
- A password manager such as Last Pass or 1Password lets you store and access all your passwords so you don’t have to remember every login for every class, software, and app you use
- Your mobile banking app will let you keep track of your spending, spot fraud quickly, and access 2fa when you shop online
- An authenticator app lets you generate codes for multiple apps so you can securely log in and keep hackers out; consider Twilio or Authy to get protected
- A speed test app like SpeedTest by Ookla can check your internet connection will be fast enough for your needs before you pull your laptop out to start working
Get the best out of your online life as a student
You’ll learn a lot at university, about life as well as your academic subjects. You’ve got money to take care of, new people to meet, and shopping to do, plus your studies – all of which come with pitfalls.
When you take care of the basics of online security, you can spend your time doing more important tasks.
Connecting securely, knowing what a scam or dodgy site looks like, and having a great space to spend your online study time is the foundation of a great online life.
Hope this article will help you.
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