Online Safety

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Communication takes on many forms, from face to face, using a mobile to talk and text, using email, messenger or social networks or video chat to talk face to face virtually

Staying Safe Online

The Internet can be a great way of communicating with friends and family, meeting new people and making friends who share similar interests. But it’s also important to stay safe.

Here are a few tips on how to stay safe whilst using the internet:

  1. Think before you post – Once something is online, it’s out of your control. If you don’t want your parents, teachers or future employers to see it, don’t post it. A lot of employers have strict social media guidelines and failure to comply can results in your job being terminated.
  2. Keep it private – At all costs don’t post any personal information online such as your address, name of your school and mobile number.
  3. Meet up – Don’t meet people you don’t know in person, even if you get on with them online, you never know who they really are. However if you are going to meet someone, never go alone and always tell a responsible adult where you are going!
  4. Passwords – Use a complex password, never anything simple like first pet name or mother maiden name. It should be something no one would be able to guess. If you are concerned someone might know your password then change it regularly.
  5. Privacy settings – Check your privacy settings on social media, set it to private so only friends and family can view your posts. This way you have control who can interact with you. Check out Childline’s step by step guides on changing your social media privacy on all accounts HERE. Most platforms automatically set your privacy to public so make sure you update it.
  6. Report it – If you see something online that doesn’t seem all it’s made up to be then report it or speak to a trusted adult. You can report anything to CEOP, if you’re worried about online abuse or the way someone has been communicating online.

Sometimes incidents occur that could’ve been avoided because risks were taken with personal safety – it’s better to be overly cautious than to find yourself in danger or a situation you can’t handle.

Some people find it easier to communicate online because it isn’t face-to-face. They can be open and honest without fear of being judged, so friendships can easily develop online. However, not all the people you talk to might be telling the truth and you need to be cautious when talking online.

  • There are a small number of paedophiles (child sex offenders) posing as young people on social media in order to “groom” young people for sexual abuse. These people will usually pose as a young person themselves with similar interests to you, although they are usually grown ups, to try and get the person they are befriending to meet them
  • If you are ever shown any sexually explicit material on the Internet or are being talked to inappropriately, you should tell your parents and contact the police. Don’t be embarrassed. It is not your fault and you won’t be in any trouble. You can report anything to CEOP, if you’re worried about online abuse or the way someone has been communicating online.

Here’s a few other organisations that can help keep you safe online: The Mix – Making friends online and BullyingUK – How to stay safe online.

Dating Online

Online dating can be a good way to meet potential partners, especially if you are shy or can’t find the time to socialise and meet people. Remember even though you might be meeting someone through an online agency, they are still a stranger and you must still think of your own safety at all times.

There are a few precautions you can take before your date:

  • ALWAYS TAKE SOMEONE WITH YOU. They can watch from a distance to ensure you are safe and happy.
  • Always meet in a public place, like a restaurant for example. Never meet at someone’s house or let them pick you up from yours.
  • Never give them your home address or mobile number until you can be sure who the person is who they say they are.
  • Always tell others where you are going and what time you are due back.

Check out episode 1 of a 7 part series following YouTuber Hannah Witton as she explores the world of online dating for The Mix.

You can also check out the following organisations for more information on how to stay safe whilst online dating: Get Safe Online – Online Dating and Childnet International.

Sexting

Sexting is the exchange of sexual messages or pictures – whether wanted or unwanted. This could be you sending a message, picture or video to your boyfriend or girlfriend or receiving one from someone you know or even from a stranger.

Whenever you send something explicit to someone else, it is out of your control as to what happens to it next. You are risking that message, picture or video falling into the wrong hands, being spread around to different people or in the worst case scenario, ending up online for anyone to see

If your boyfriend or girlfriend is asking you to do this, make sure that you completely trust them to respect your privacy. They might share it with their friends who might not have the same level of respect for your privacy or relationship that you do.

Don’t feel pressured to send anything with sexual content to anyone – even your closest group of friends or boyfriend/girlfriend. You don’t have to put yourself at risk in this way and don’t have to do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable or pressured.

If they have any respect for you then they will respect your right not to put yourself in a vulnerable situation or put yourself on public display. In a worst case scenario, imagine that your parents or teachers came across those pictures or messages and how embarrassed you would feel.

There is nothing ‘cool’ about having your messages, pictures or videos spread amongst your friends, school or put online for anyone to see.

For more information about sexting please check out Childline and NSPCC.

There’s support available through these organisations: NHS, The Mix and you can call the Samaritans at any time for free on 116 123 to discuss any issues or problems you may have. You can also chat online with someone from Meic or call the helpline for free on 0808 80 23456.

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