Five areas to think about when young and online:
The internet is a powerful and valuable source of information, much of it interesting or entertaining. However, among the good is an awful lot of unsuitable content that no parent would want their child to see. Putting parental controls on your computer does a good job at blocking offensive material such as pornography, offensive language, racist material, violent games etc. but it cannot be relied upon completely.
Parental supervision of the use of the internet at home is the most effective way to ensure their children are not viewing potentially harmful material online. It is therefore recommended that a home computer is confined to a communal room seen by everyone. Parents should encourage their children to let them know if they have seen anything that has upset them.
As children get older, parents are less able to control or dictate what's viewed online but hopefully by setting boundaries and being open from a young age they will grow up using the internet safely and sensibly.
Social media is part of everyday culture, letting young people communicate, interact, share videos and pictures through sites such as Facebook and Twitter. It's a great way for young people to interact but sometimes it gets out of hand and conscious or unconscious bullying can take place. Bullying can happen through posts, pictures, through verbal abuse on chat, in chatrooms etc. It's just as terrible for the victim as physical bullying and shouldn't be tolerated.
For more information, read our article on cyberbullying
3. Online friendships
While socialising online via chatrooms or Facebook is generally safe, it is important to remember that friendships made on the internet may not always be what they seem. Worrying figures show that just under half of 9 to 19 year olds questioned say they have given out personal information, such as their full name, age, address, email address, phone number, hobbies or name of their school to someone they met on the internet.
While no one wants to scaremonger, the fact is there is a criminal minority who use the anonymity of the internet to develop inappropriate online friendships with young people. In the worst case scenario, paedophiles may target a child, posing as a young person with similar interests and hobbies in order to form an online friendship which may even get to the stage where the paedophile is encouraging a meeting. Children do need to be aware of the risks so this never happens.
If you are a parent with any concerns at all contact your local police.
If you are a child who feels uncomfortable with anything that happens online don't be afraid to tell an adult or ring Childline on 0800 1111.
4. Identity theft
Identity theft is rare among young people but it does happen. Phishing scams can trick young people to give out personal information, which gives clues to their identity. In the real world, people shred sensitive documents but online you make more of a digital footprint which can be tracked and accessed.
- Take care what you share online – don't give out personal details, email addresses, mobile numbers etc.
- Choose good passwords and keep them closely guarded
- Change passwords regularly
- Don't steal friends passwords to post blog entries in their name as this a form of identity theft
5. Advertising and SPAM
There's lots of advertising and marketing on the internet. SPAM such as unwanted adverts and marketing email can encourage young people to sign up for expensive ringtones or premium rate telephone services. Make sure you have the latest anti-spyware and firewall programs installed on your computer. Learn how to delete pop-ups and block SPAM emails and remember not to reply to emails – even to stop them. Viruses can also spread quickly by downloading files, pictures or videos messages or accepting emails or IM messages from unknown people.
No one wants to scare or stop children using the internet, but it's important to take a few steps to stay safe and to be aware of the risks.
If you are a young people and have any concerns about the internet or in general call ChildLine on 0800 1111.
Parents with any concerns can call the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000 for advice.
You can find out more information on how to keep your children safe online at http://www.knowhow.com/kidsafe.aspx and wherever you see the Click Clever Click Safe logo.