How to Stay Safe Online

4 February 2019

Safer Internet Day is an annual event taking place every February. The aim of the event is to increase awareness and educate young people and children on how to stay safe on the internet, with the ethos ‘Together for a better internet.’ Made up of three organisations – Childnet International, Internet Watch Foundation and South West Grid for Learning – Safer Internet Day promotes safe and responsible use of technology, including the internet.

Explore e-safety, the dangers of using the internet and how to remain cautious with these top 10 tips for staying safe online.

What is e-safety?

E-safety simply means being safe on the internet. Most of us now live in a digital world full of smartphones, social media and emerging digital technologies. Whilst this phenomenon is mainly positive, negative issues have emerged over the years. The internet is mostly a safe, informative and fun place, but it can be dangerous at times. These dangers affect everyone – particularly young people.

Dangers of the internet

It is becoming increasingly common to become a victim of online danger. These dangers can include:

  • Cyber-bullying
  • Exposure to dangerous people or inappropriate content
  • Theft of personal information

Why is e-safety important?

As technology advances, being safe online is an issue that will only get greater with time. It’s important to educate yourself on child safety online, as well as knowing how to stop private information getting in the wrong hands.

Ofcom stated in 2017 that around 1 in 8 young people have experienced bullying on social media. This number could be much higher as many victims keep information to themselves and the issues are left unreported.

There are other disturbing movements happening online alongside cyber bullying. The Internet Watch Foundation identified over 78,000 URLs that contained child sexual abuse images, and thousands of calls were made to Childline about online sexual harassment in 2017/18.

Worryingly, it is becoming increasingly common for young people to become victims of online grooming that can sometimes lead to sexual exploitation, assault or trafficking. It is important that young people are aware of any warning signs that they may be in danger and that they take steps to avoid anything bad happening.

As well as online grooming, it is fairly common for people to become victims of hackers stealing personal data. It’s vital to educate yourself and others on the precautions to take and how to distinguish a legitimate email from spam.

10 Ways to Stay Safe Online

  1. Never post personal information
    Material such as your address, school or phone number is not something that you should ever post online or give away on chatrooms. You wouldn’t want a stranger you met in real life knowing this information, so don’t make it easy to find online.
  2. Think about your digital footprint
    Your digital footprint is the trace of your online activity every time you log on. Once you post a photograph, video or status online, it’s there forever. Even if you delete it, someone else may have made a copy that can be used against you in the future. Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your parents or employer to see!
  3. Be wary of who you’re talking to
    If you start talking to somebody online, it’s sensible to be cautious as they may not be who they say they are. Don’t tell them personal details about yourself and if you arrange to meet up, always take a parent or guardian with you. If somebody makes you feel uncomfortable and begins asking for inappropriate content, cut contact and tell someone you trust. Likewise, if they want to meet up in secret then they are likely to be dangerous.
  4. Be careful what information you give away
    Even if it’s someone you trust asking personal questions, your account can be compromised through answering them. Anyone asking your mother’s maiden name or the street where you grew up raises suspicions as these are typical answers to security questions. Additionally, if you receive an email asking for your bank details, remember that any trusted company or bank will never ask for your finance details over email.
  5. Be aware of the warning signs
    There are usually warning signs if people are dangerous or aren’t who they say they are. Being insistent on finding out personal information, sending inappropriate photos, wanting to receive pictures from you or asking to keep your chats secret are big danger signs that you should take seriously. Equally, look out for scam emails that may be tricking you into sending personal details. Emails from supposed companies that have spelling mistakes, different logos or strange layouts are usually signs that an email is fake.
  6. Avoid online confrontation
    Even if you see something you don’t agree with, respect what you see online. There are usually ways to block people or report content – it is not worth getting involved in online confrontation as it makes you susceptible to insults and abuse from others who misuse the internet. Likewise, as we already mentioned – anything you post online can come back to haunt you even in a few years’ time.
  7. Keep your privacy settings up-to-date
    Ensure that all your social media is hidden from strangers and only accept people who you know. It is very easy to find out personal information like your address, school, workplace or local hang-outs from posts on social media. Google your name and see what comes up – you may be surprised!
  8. Remember social media doesn’t always tell the whole story
    It can be easy to envy other people based on their social media account. But, remember that users generally only put the best parts of their lives online. Nobody is perfect and everybody goes through sad times – they just may not showcase it. Many celebrities and influencers also use editing apps to make themselves look better than they do in real life, so don’t compare yourself.
  9. Know how to block or report content
    Reporting or blocking inappropriate content from the internet or social media means that you’re making the online world a safer place to be. If you encounter sinister content that may be endangering yourself or other people then you can officially report it to avoid it getting in the wrong hands.
  10. Keep a healthy balance
    The internet is an excellent way to get information and keep up with friends. However, it can be easy to get carried away and cut yourself off from the real world. Make sure you take regular breaks and continue to have a life offline too. Joining the Army Cadet Force as a cadet or adult volunteer is a great way to spend your free time and is a place of learning, socialising and developing. Search for your local detachment and get in contact to find out how you can help change lives.