Staying safe online is one of the most important skills to using the internet. Whilst social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook are commonly known to cause issues, gaming websites, chat rooms and instant messaging services are further examples of services used by millions which can cause safety risks. With huge numbers of people using the internet, it’s hard to know who and what to trust online.
You should always…
- use websites recommended by teachers and parents
- use a student friendly search engine
- consider who created a website and possible bias within information
- only email people you know be cautious before opening an email sent by someone you don’t know
- use Internet chat rooms, websites, instant messaging etc with caution
- use blocking and reporting facilities to report unwanted users
- try not use their real name when using games or websites on the Internet (create a nick name)
- never give out any personal information about yourself, friends or family online including home address, phone or mobile number
- never email your school name or a picture in school uniform (even to a friend)
- never arrange to meet anyone alone, and always tell an adult first and meet in a public place
- only use a webcam with people you know tell an adult you trust immediately if you find anything you are unhappy with
- report concerns to the Child Exploitation & Online Protection Centre (CEOP)
- avoid using websites you feel they could not tell an adult about
- be aware comments you make on Blogs, Wikis and Social Networking Sites are likely to be viewed by others
Current issues young people are facing with regards to Online Safety
You are hopefully aware that all computer games have an age restriction applied to them. It is becoming apparent that some 15/18 certificate games are being played by our students, particularly in the lower years, which has led to inappropriate language and opinions regarding some of the content involved in the games. The content of some of these games e.g. Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty is particularly disturbing and I would emphasise that the age rating is there to protect children from this type of material.
Sexting is the use of technology (smart phones in particular) to send sexually provocative images to one another. This also includes images being uploaded onto social networking and image sharing sites such as Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram. Please could you reinforce the dangers of this as these images could fall into the wrong hands and potentially put your child at risk and also hinder future chances of employment.
How to remove a nude online
For the first time, people under the age of 18 who are concerned that a nude photo of them is online – or could potentially end up there – can now flag up the content using the Report Remove tool on the NSPCC’s Childline service website. If a picture or video has already appeared online, they can share the URL and the charity will examine the images. If the pictures break the law, the IWF will work to have them removed. If the content has not yet appeared online but a person is worried it might, the charity can create a digital fingerprint for the picture – known as a hash – which will be shared with tech companies and law enforcement around the world to help prevent it from being uploaded and shared.
This is more of a repeat of the constant message which I give to students. Please ensure that, if they have Facebook or any other social networking account, they regularly review their privacy settings to ‘friends only’. Also, to reinforce that they should not post any derogatory status or image which could be deemed as cyber-bullying.
Snapchat is a picture sharing app that has gained considerable popularity with young people. Thinkuknow have created a guide (download below) for parents and carers to help them understand the functions and features of Snapchat and ways to help young people stay safe if they are using the app.
Social Media Simplified
The Children’s Commissioner, Anne Longfield, has recently published ‘jargon-free’ social media terms and conditions for teenagers. View the guides here.
Online Safety – Tips for Parents
1. Have the conversation early and often
It’s easier to have conversations about online safety little and often, rather than trying to cover everything at once. As your children get older, and technology changes, make sure you keep talking about what they’re doing online and how to stay safe.
2. Explore online together
Ask your child to show you their favourite things to do online, and show an interest in what they do – just like you would offline.
3. Know who your child is talking to online
It’s important to keep track of who your child’s talking to. Ask them questions like:
- who do they know that has the most online friends?
- how can they know so many people?
- how do they choose who to become friends with online?
4. Set rules and agree boundaries
It’s useful to agree on some ground rules together. These will depend on your child’s age and what you feel is right for them, but you might want to consider:
- the amount of time they can spend online
- when they can go online
- the age rating of websites they can visit or activities they can take part in
- sharing images and videos
- how to treat people online and not post anything they wouldn’t say face-to-face.
If your child plays online games:
- check the age rating before they play
- make sure you know who they’re playing with
- talk to them about what information is OK to share with other players
- negotiate the amount of time they spend playing online games.
5. Use parental controls to filter, restrict, monitor or report content
- Internet Service Providers (ISPs), such as Virgin Media, TalkTalk, Sky or BT, provide controls to help you filter or restrict content.
- Laptops, phones, tablets, game consoles and other devices that connect to the internet have settings to activate parental controls.
- Software packages are available – some for free – that can help you filter, restrict or monitor what your child can see online.
6. Check they know how to use privacy settings and reporting tools
Check the privacy settings on any online accounts your child has, like Facebook or games, and remind them to keep their personal information private. Talk to your child about what to do if they see content or are contacted by someone that worries or upsets them. Make sure they know how to use tools to report abuse.
7. Consider limiting your child’s access to mobile devices
We are experiencing an increasing number of well-being issues due to the misuse of mobile technology. Unwanted and unpleasant messages can arrive at any time of the day or night and can be extremely upsetting. A very good tip is to insist that your child leaves the mobile phone downstairs before they go to bed. It is also advisable that children do not have computers in their bedroom. This way, children can at least get some sleep without interruption or harassment from technology.