10 Tips for Safe Internet Browsing

Woman typing

Safety Alert: Computer use can be monitored and it is impossible to completely clear your browser history. If you are afraid your internet usage might be monitored, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 or 800-787-3224 en Español.

Most of us use smartphones, hand-held devices and computers without thinking twice about safe internet browsing. But every online interaction leaves a trail of electronic breadcrumbs others can track.

If you feel that your partner is monitoring your online activity, you might be right. Today’s technology has allowed for new forms of domestic abuse, by increasing:

  • Access to private information
  • Control over online accounts
  • Use of mobile devices to track a person’s whereabouts

Start practicing safe internet browsing today by following these 10 tips.

1. Browse the internet somewhere else. add
2. Know the Safe Exit button on Military OneSource. add
3. Avoid sharing sensitive information over email or social media apps. add
4. Log out of accounts, apps and forums. add
5. Lock your computer. add
6. Create new email accounts. add
7. Switch to private browsing mode. add
8. Clear browsing history. add
9. Clear cookies. add
10. Erase toolbar searches. add

 

For more information regarding technology safety, you may wish to consult this compilation of tips and resources from the Safety Net Project at the National Network to End Domestic Violence.

Inclusion of this information does not imply endorsement of the National Network to End Domestic Violence by the Department of Defense.

For more resources and support for surviving domestic abuse, contact your local Family Advocacy Program Domestic Abuse Victim Advocate. For immediate support, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233.

10 Tips for Safe Internet Browsing

Technology abuse — when one partner seeks to control how the other accesses or uses technology and the internet — is a common form of domestic abuse. This article shares 10 tips for safe and smart browsing based on best practices recommended for everyone’s cybersecurity.

How to Document Technology Misuse by Your Partner

Texting on cell phone

Safety Alert: Computer use can be monitored and it is impossible to completely clear your browser history. If you are afraid your internet usage might be monitored, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 or 800-787-3224 en Español.

Does your partner use technology to keep tabs on you? Perhaps even harass or intimidate you? That’s the misuse of technology to abuse, sometimes called digital abuse. If you or someone you know is dealing with digital abuse, it can be useful to know how to document this behavior.

Keep in Mind:

  • If you are using a shared computer at home, or believe someone is monitoring your internet usage, consider viewing this information from a public setting, such as a library.
  • It is also a good idea to exit from this website and delete it from your browser history after viewing this material.
  • This guide offers tips on how to clear your browser and be safe online.

Keeping track of your spouse or partner’s misuse of technology can help you identify patterns of behavior that can provide useful information for you and a victim advocate to develop a safety plan that reduces your risk of harm. Documentation can also serve as an important record of evidence if you choose to pursue an unrestricted report of domestic abuse.

How to Keep a Record of Technology Misuse

Below are key points to keep in mind when making a record of technology misuse by your spouse or partner. They were adapted from this guide by the Safety Net Project of the National Network to End Domestic Violence. Inclusion of this information does not imply endorsement of the Safety Net Project by the Department of Defense. If you have any questions, you can always work with a FAP victim advocate.

  • Keep a written log of events. Write down the date, time, location, suspected technology involved (e.g., phone, email, etc.), and a brief description of what happened. If there are any witnesses, note that. For an example of what this looks like, see this Technology Abuse Log. Remember to save this information in a place or format that won’t be accessible to your partner—for example, make sure to securely log out of your email account if you share a computer or device with them.
  • Save everything that is relevant to the behavior, but do not save all items in the same way or place. Things to save include physical notes, emails, texts, phone calls, voice messages and social media contact. Consider physical places where items can be kept privately as well as trusted people who could hold things for you.
  • Save emails in the original email account. If you are concerned that the emails might be deleted, print or screenshot them with the header information included. The process for showing the header information will depend on your email server. An internet search for “show email header” and the name of your email type (Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo, etc.) will provide directions for showing the header before you print or screenshot. The header provides the Internet Protocol address, which can identify the sender.
  • Take a screenshot or photograph of text messages, and also take a screenshot or photograph of the contact page to show the phone number that is associated with the name shown on the message.
  • Screenshot harassment or abuse on social media websites. Some sites, such as Facebook, have a feature to download specific information.
  • Print out or screenshot your telephone call logs. Record voice mails, and check on your state’s laws about recording telephone conversations.

In addition to the above tips, you may find this guide on How to Gather Technology Abuse Evidence for Court, by the Resource Center on Domestic Violence, Child Protection and Custody, helpful. Note that inclusion of this resource does not imply DoD endorsement of the Resource Center on Domestic Violence, Child Protection and Custody.

The misuse of tech by your partner is still abuse. Mobilize help for intimate partner violence, online or off, by contacting your local Family Advocacy Program. An advocate can work with you to develop a safety plan around technology. If you are concerned about your safety and need immediate support, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233.

Top 4 Tips for Cell Phone Safety

Person texting on cell phone

Safety Alert: Computer use can be monitored and it is impossible to completely clear your browser history. If you are afraid your internet usage might be monitored, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 or 800-787-3224 en Español.

According to one study, 89% of service members own a smart phone, and over half report regular social media activity. Our cell phones contain a lot of information about us, so keeping it secure and private from prying eyes is important. Privacy on a smartphone is especially relevant for anyone who may have a spouse or partner who is misusing technology to harass or control them. Here are 4 tips that technology safety experts recommend to keep your device safe and secure.

  1. Lock Down Your Phone
    One of the most important things that everyone should do is to put a passcode on their phone. This prevents someone from going through it or installing unwanted apps or malicious software, such as spyware. Most phones allow users to lock their phone with a 4-6-digit code. Pick a code that someone close to you cannot guess and only you know.

    Some phones have other passcode lock options, such as a pattern, thumbprint, or facial recognition. Be cautious about allowing others to put into your phone their own thumbprint or facial image. If someone else needed to get into your phone (and you trust them), you can always tell them your 4-6-digit code, and then change it afterwards.
     

  2. Review Your iCloud and Google Accounts
    If you have a smartphone, you likely also have an iCloud (for iPhones) or a Google (for Android) account associated with your phone. These accounts often contain your phone’s back up, and depending on your settings, can also include sensitive information, such as photos, notes, contacts, calendars, and other personal information on your phone.

    Unfortunately, these accounts can be accessed not just via the phone but from another phone or computer. This means that anyone who knows the username and password to your iCloud or Google account can log in and see some of the information that’s on your phone. Here are some tips on protecting all that personal data:

    • Make sure that only you know the username and password.
    • Ensure that the email address associated with the account is secure and no one else can access it.
    • Check to see if other devices are connected to your iCloud or Google account and remove those devices if you don’t want it connected.
    • Know what information (photos, contacts, notes, etc.) is backed up to your account. (You can choose what information to back up in the phone’s settings.)
       
  3. Know the Apps on Your Phone
    Millions of apps are downloaded each day. Some of these apps use information from your phone to function (for example, Google Maps needs to know your location to provide directions), while other apps may share information on your phone in more malicious and even dangerous ways.

    Here are some steps to increase the privacy and security of your phone.

    • Review the privacy settings on your phone to know what information is being accessed by which apps.
    • Delete apps that you’re not using, especially if they have a lot of permissions to access your data.
    • Deny access request for apps that do not need it. For example, a gaming app that doesn’t involve location doesn’t need your location and shouldn’t require it.
    • Be cautious and avoid malware and other malicious apps by doing the following:
      • When your phone prompts you for a software update, say yes. These often include security updates to your phone’s operating system.
      • Don’t download apps outside of the official app stores. On Android phones, you can prevent this from accidentally happening by turning off “allow unknown sources” in the security settings. If you have an iPhone, don’t jailbreak the phone so that you can download apps not in the App Store.
      • If you download apps from the Google Play store, turn on Google Play Protect to scan for malicious software before they’re downloaded.
      • Download anti-spyware and anti-malware tools.
         
  4. Choose When to Connect to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
    While most smartphones now ask you to confirm if you want to connect with a Wi-Fi network or a Bluetooth-enabled device the first time, in most cases, if you’ve connected once, it’ll automatically connect again when you’re within range. Unless it’s a secure Wi-Fi network or it’s a Bluetooth device you trust (for example, you own the other Bluetooth device), consider “forgetting” the network or Bluetooth device after you’re done connecting. You can find this option under settings. Choose when to connect your smartphone, but more importantly, choose when NOT to connect.

Help and Resources

If you are concerned about your cell phone privacy and suspect your spouse or partner may have accessed or tampered with your device, help is available. Whether you are looking for help in talking to your partner about “hitting reset” on the use of technology in your relationship to establish healthy boundaries—or want to report domestic abuse or intimate partner violence facilitated through technology—the military community has your back.

You can:

*Inclusion of this information does not imply endorsement of the Safety Net Project by the Department of Defense.

Technology (Mis)Use and Your Relationship

Typing on cell phone

Safety Alert: Computer use can be monitored and it is impossible to completely clear your browser history. If you are afraid your internet usage might be monitored, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 or 800-787-3224 en Español.

Technology facilitates modern life, with nearly all of us relying on our cell phones, email and social media to communicate, stay connected, and talk with our spouses and partners. According to one study, 89% of service members own a smart phone, and over half report regular social media activity. Smartphones and other devices are the place where much of life happens, including where unhealthy relationship patterns can develop.

As a result, it comes as no surprise that the misuse of technology in relationships is a growing form of domestic abuse. A majority of civilian domestic violence agencies report providing technology-specific advocacy and services for victims in 2018.

What is Technology-Facilitated Abuse?

Technology-facilitated abuse, sometimes called digital abuse, is the use of communications such as texts, social media or emails to bully, harass or intimidate a partner. It also includes stalking behaviors where one partner uses apps and malware to “keep tabs” on the other partner’s location, activities and communications with friends and family.

Examples of behavior that may indicate your partner’s misuse of technology include:

  • Unwanted tracking of your location. Many apps, including fitness apps and social media apps, share your location. If your partner is tracking your location when you don’t want them to be, this could be considered stalking or controlling behavior.
  • Pushing for explicit content. You should be comfortable with the material that you are sharing with your partner. Pressuring you to share texts, images or videos, particularly of a sexual nature, are signs of sexual coercion.
  • Unwanted sharing. Your partner should not be sharing texts, images or videos from you without your consent.
  • Emotional abuse. Does your partner talk about you or to you in a negative or insulting way on social media, via text or through messaging apps? Do they send you messages that sound negative, insulting or even like threats? Are you afraid of not responding immediately to your partner’s texts, calls, emails or messages? This behavior may be emotional abuse, or an indication of bullying or harassment.
  • Privacy violations. Even within a relationship, each partner has the right to privacy. Sharing of passwords, texts, phone calls and social media accounts should be consensual, with both parties agreeing to the sharing. Demanding to know your passwords, checking your phone logs or reading your personal messages, are all signs of possessiveness and controlling behavior. For more information, read this article on privacy and your cell phone.

Recognizing How Tech Works in Your Relationship

Sometimes it is difficult to know when the use of technology is appropriate or not, and the answer may vary for different couples. The important thing to remember is: if you feel your partner may be using technology to control you, something is wrong. When you examine the role tech plays in your relationship or that of someone you love, it can be helpful to do so with a clear understanding of your rights in a healthy relationship. In a healthy relationship, you should feel empowered to:

  • Control how, when and whether any images of you are posted online or on social media, or communicated via email or text.
  • Turn off your phone and spend time with friends and family without fear of your partner getting angry.
  • Say no to sending pictures, videos or information digitally to your partner that make you uncomfortable.
  • Keep your logins and passwords private.
  • Control your own privacy settings and activities on social networking sites and decide whether to accept any tags of yourself in photos shared by others.

Above all, you deserve to feel safe and respected in your relationship, online or off. It is always a good idea to talk to your partner and set clear expectations about how you want to use tech in your relationship, and what behaviors cross a line for you. Consider this resource from LoveIsRespect.org, a project of the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

If you have let your partner know that their behavior with technology makes you uncomfortable, yet the behavior continues, then you have cause for concern. When your partner’s misuse of tech becomes habitual, it’s domestic abuse.

What to Do if Technology Use in Your Relationship Isn’t Safe

If the use of tech in your relationship has become a problem, know it is not your fault. You are not alone, and help is available. Whether you are looking for help in talking to your partner about “hitting reset” on the use of tech in your relationship to establish healthy boundaries—or want to report domestic abuse facilitated through technology—the military community has your back.

You can: