Staying safe online

The internet is a brilliant place to connect with others, to be creative and to discover new things. 

For many things such as sharing memes, having a virtual encyclopaedia on hand, connecting with others via social media and apps, and getting advice and support on any number of topics it’s a resource that most young people will use.

We all spend so much (too much?) time online now that sometimes it’s easy to forget that we actually need to stay safe there too. 

But just like in our offline lives, we need to be aware of threats to our safety. Here’s some ways you can make sure you’re staying safe online:

  1. It’s not a good idea to accept friend requests and add people you don’t know. You don’t know anything about them, so why would you add them?
  2. Sometimes people you meet online can change your views and opinions. If you’re part of an online community that’s negative – leave it! Find something more positive.
  3. Think about what you’re posting. Remember the golden rule – don’t share anything you wouldn’t want your Gran to see! Content posted online can last forever and could be shared publicly by anyone.
  4. Don’t meet someone you don’t know. Even if you get on with someone online you never know who they really are.
  5. Don’t give in to pressure online.  Keep calm and keep in control; once you’ve pressed send you can’t take it back. 
  6. Know where to find help. Understand how to report to service providers and use blocking and deleting tools. If something happens that upsets you online, it’s never too late to tell someone.

What do I look like?

If you didn’t know you, what would think about this post? What would you think about the person who posted it? Things that we might share with friends as a joke can look very different to someone else, and that might be someone you’re trying to impress – a girl, a boy, even an employer or a university recruiter.

Is this link permanent?

When you share something online, you can lose control of it. Even if you delete a photo or post you can’t be sure it hasn’t been copied or downloaded by someone else. Think about how many people you’re sharing with and whether they will take care of what you share. Don’t forget it’s easy for other people to copy what you share online, change it and share it without you knowing.

Am I giving away too much?

The more you share, the more people can learn about you. Could they use your posts to bully you?

Would I want this shared about me?

It’s important to think about the impact what you post online might have on others. Do you have your friend’s permission to share that funny picture of them? Could that jokey comment you posted hurt someone’s feelings?

The BillboardTest

Before you post something online, think: would you be happy to see it on a billboard where the rest of your school, your parents, your grandparents and neighbours could see it? If not, think twice about sharing online.

Keep your privacy settings

Most websites, apps and social networks you can share information on have ‘privacy settings’. These help you control what you share and who you share it with. So, it’s your choice to decide whether your friends, friends of friends or everyone can see what you post.

Choose your friends wisely

It’s always best to only share with friends you know in the real world. Remember too that what your friends share about you and their privacy settings online will also affect your digital footprint.

Remove and report

Think you shouldn’t have made that comment? Make sure you know how to remove anything you regret posting from any sites you use. If someone’s posted something about you that you’re worried about and refuses to take it down, make sure you know how to report it. Most websites will have a ‘safety centre’ explaining how to do it. Get links for popular websites safety centres. If someone is trying to use what you've posted online to harm you, or makes you feel uncomfortable, worried or even frightened online you should tell an adult you trust, or report to CEOP. Whatever may have happened you won’t be in trouble.

Know yourself online

It can be hard to keep up with the things we’ve done online so regularly Google yourself. That way you’ll know what other people find out about you, as well as things others might have posted about you.

Shut down or delete

If you stop using a website that you’ve posted information on remember to deactivate your account.

If you have any more questions on this area or would like to speak to somebody about this topic, have a look at the links below. Alternatively, you can always contact your school nurse.

The Mix is a charity that provides free information and support for under 25s on lots of different topics

Childline Staying Safe Online Childlines guide to staying safe online

ThinkUKnow: Information and advice from CDOP around keeping young people safe online

NSPCC- Keeping Kids Safe Online. Guide from the NSPCC for parents and carers

YoungMinds are a charity providing support for young people’s mental health.