Many of us conduct our lives online these days, whether it's speaking to friends on social networking sites or posting our latest thoughts and musings on Twitter. While there's nothing wrong with this there can be risks - and particularly for children and young people.
The internet is such an integral part of children's lives these days. It opens up so many educational and social opportunities, giving them access to a world of information and experiences.
As you would protect your child in the real world, you will want to make sure that they are safe whatever they are doing. Online safety skills are skills for life; if your child understands the risks and can make sensible and informed choices online, they can get the most from the internet and stay safe whilst doing so.
·Help your children to understand that they should never give out personal details to online friends they do not know offline.
·Younger children (under 13) should not be using social networking sites such as Facebook. Facebook will delete such accounts if they are reported.
·Explain to your children what information about them is personal: i.e. email address, mobile number, school name, sports club, arrangements for meeting up with friends and any pictures or videos of themselves, their family or friends. Small pieces of information can easily be pieced together to form a comprehensive insight in to their lives and daily activities.
·Make your children aware that they need to think carefully about the information and pictures they post on their profiles. Inform them that once published online, anyone can change or share these images of them.
·It can be easy to forget that the internet is not a private space, and as result sometimes young people engage in risky behaviour online. Advise your children not to post any pictures, videos or information on their profiles, or in chat rooms, that they would not want a parent or carer to see.
·If your child receives spam or junk email and texts, remind them never to believe their contents, reply to them or use them.
·It's not a good idea for your child to open files that are from people they don't know. They won't know what they contain—it could be a virus, or worse - an inappropriate image or video.
·Help your child to understand that some people lie online and that therefore it's better to keep online friends online. They should never meet up with any strangers without an adult they trust.
·Always keep communication open for a child to know that it's never too late to tell someone if something makes them feel uncomfortable.
Please be aware that it is not just young people who are at risk on the internet. If you have a social networking account, take a fresh look at it from the point of view of someone intent on identity theft.
Such crimes are on the increase and many of us are very casual about the information we share and who we share it with. What information are you giving? "You should only post information on these sites that you would be happy to give a complete stranger at a bus stop.” (Get Safe Online)
On your home computer, do you update your anti-virus software and malware software regularly to protect yourself against malicious software? Do you change online passwords on a regular basis? In the comfort of our homes, it is all too easy for us to become complacent and to leave our guards down.