The internet, e-mail and text messaging are now part of everyday life for most teenagers. They are great ways to find out information and contact your friends and family, but you should make sure that you use it safely.

Social networking sites like Bebo, Facebook and My Space are very popular, but you have to be careful about what information you put onto your profile.

Most networking sites allow you to change the security settings on your profile, so make sure that you only allow your friends to see it. Its best not to upload any pictures or videos that you wouldn’t want your parents or teachers to see. Not all adults can be trusted some can be dangerous and use these sites to target young people.

Cyber bullying is when somebody is nasty or threatening to somebody else by using e-mail, text and picture messaging or other digital technologies. Cyber bullying can’t hurt you physically, but it can have a negative effect on your emotions.

What are the dangers?

Making a fool of yourself.
If people put up pictures of themselves, or write personal diaries then they need to remember that, apart from their friends, there are other people who may use this information in a nasty way.

Child abusers making friends with kids.
If youngsters put a lot of information about themselves on the Internet, this gives “groomers” lots of ways of making friends with them (pretending to be kids themselves) and contacting them. If they put their school name and where they hang out, then it’s easier to do this.

If a bully gets hold of a kid’s private pictures or diary, then they can use this to be cruel and send it around to others with unpleasant messages and so on.

What counts as Personal Stuff?
Personal stuff includes your real name, messenger id, e-mail address, home address, mobile number and any pictures of you, your family or friends.

Top tips for kids

  1. Tell your parents what you are doing. If they understand it, they’ll be happier with you using the internet. Don’t give anyone your password, except maybe your parents.
  2. Be careful with your mobile. Don’t send pictures that might embarrass you, even to your best friend. Someone can get hold of your pictures and be nasty to you.
  3. Don’t give anyone your school name. Don’t give your school name, address or phone number to people you communicate with on the internet.
  4. Don’t meet up with internet friends. If you must, then take an adult with you. People are not always who they pretend to be.
  5. Tell someone. Tell someone if people are saying things you don’t like or bullying you. If you don’t get help, ask advice from another adult.
  6. Report it. Report bad behavior to the website you are using.
  7. Don’t let bullies win. Print out and save any messages and show someone like a parent or teacher and ask them to help. If the first person doesn’t help, then ask someone else.
  8. Don’t respond to nasty emails. Don’t respond to nasty emails or messages. Block or ignore the sender.
  9. Could it embarrass you? Don’t put photos or things that might embarrass you on the internet.
  10. Be nice even if they’re angry. Be as nice online as you are offline. If someone makes you angry don’t be angry back. Tell someone else or report it, but don’t get into a fight online.

Top Tips For Parents:

  1. Get involved. Open the lines of communication between you and your kids about what they are doing.
  2. Don’t go overboard. Know the risks but don’t ban the internet outright, it’s a great tool. If you are over-anxious your kids won’t tell you what they are doing.
  3. Agree on the ground rules. These will depend on the age of your children and the type of websites you are happy for them to view.
  4. Put the computer in a main room. With your PC in a main room such as the living room, you will be able to keep an eye on what’s going on.
  5. The internet is part of school. Schoolwork these days often includes internet research and used safely the web represents an important learning resource.
  6. Parental control software. Install software which is designed to block websites that are not suitable for kids.
  7. Chat and instant messaging. If you are in the dark as to what these things are, then ask your kids to teach you.
  8. Be careful about plagiarism and homework. The internet makes it very easy for kids to search the net and copy other people’s work. They need educating about the difference between research and plain copying.
  9. Bullying on the internet. Be aware that this is a growing problem for kids particularly when using email, chat rooms or message boards. Make sure you are there to listen if they need to talk.
  10. Report abuse when you see it. Forums aimed at children are generally well-moderated and should respond to complaints.

Things to remember:

  • Don’t give out any personal information to ‘online friends’.
  • If you upload a picture or video online, anyone can change it or share it.
  • Do NOT open files or emails from people that you don’t know.
  • Some people lie online in chat rooms and through instant messengers.
  • Keep ‘online’ friends online, do not give them too much personal information.
  • If something is making you feel uncomfortable, tell someone.

The Child Safety and Online Protection Centre handle all child related reports. If you are in the UK then this is the best place to make reports. If it’s international (for example on a US website) then you should go to the Virtual Global Taskforce (VGT). The Virtual Global Taskforce is a partnership of international law enforcement agencies, working together to make the Internet a safer place.

The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) works with Internet Service Providers, Police and Government to try to reduce the availability of illegal Internet content, particularly child abuse images. If you wish report the content of a particular site to the IWF, you can do so on their website at

You can visit Colin’s Security blog at Free PC Security