Staying Safe Online: Chat Rooms, Social Media And More

Your laptop and your mobile phone give you countless ways to communicate with people all over the world. From the internet, to texting and apps, communication is growing easier all the time. Technology is now so simple and so affordable that most of us have access to the web, whenever and wherever we want it. It plays a massive part in our lives, and many of us can’t get through the day without a quick check of Facebook, or seeing what’s happening on Twitter.

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In an Ofcom study it was found that 28% of young adults would miss their mobile phone more than any other media. This is something unique to young people today. We’ve grown up with access to all this technology, and often understand it better than older generations.

While technology can be really useful, there are also a lot of dangers which are associated with increased access to the internet, so it’s important that you are well informed.

How to stay safe

Remember that people online can pretend to be someone else very easily by lying about their age, their interests, and their gender. If you’re talking with someone that you’ve never met in person, take everything they say with a pinch of salt. These people are strangers (no matter how long you’ve been talking online).

Never give out your personal information such as your full name, home address, mobile number, places you hang out with your friends or the name of your school. Plenty of people you speak to might be genuine, but in case they aren’t, you don’t want to give them a way of finding you. You should think very carefully about meeting anyone in person who you’ve met online. It’s best avoided altogether, but if you choose to, make sure you meet somewhere public and take a couple of friends with you. Make sure that you let a parent or a trusted adult know where you are meeting, and any details you have about the person you’re meeting up with as well. Never meet up at their home or yours; alarm bells should ring if they don’t want to meet up in a public place. Arrange to be picked up by your parents, or let them know what time you’ll be back.

Another issue which has cropped up with smart phones is GPS tracking. It’s the bit of your phone which pinpoints your location on the map, and can be used when you post social media updates from your mobile. If you don’t want strangers knowing your whereabouts (and let’s face it, you definitely don’t), make sure you turn this feature off.

Social networks are a good way to keep in touch, but remember anyone you connect with can see your information. Once an image or some text is posted online you have lost control of it – and others will be able to see it long after you’ve first shared it online. A good rule is not to post anything that you wouldn’t want your parent, carer, or teacher to see. Whatever you’ve posted could be used in ways you wouldn’t like, so be careful what you share.

If you’re using Twitter, Facebook or other social networks, make sure you know how to report users. Each of these sites has their own process, so familiarise yourself with it just in case you connect with someone who makes you feel uncomfortable. Keep personal information to a minimum, and check your privacy settings as well.

If you sign up to online forums, or apps on your phone, Read through the terms and conditions. Often you will need to give contact details in order to create an account and it’s important that you know how and when these will be used. If you don’t want to give your real email account out, it’s possible to sign up using sites such as 10 Minute Mail which give you access to a temporary email account for long enough to get through the verification process without having to use your real contact details.

If you’re ever worried about the way someone has been talking to you online, it’s often easy enough to cut contact by blocking that person. You can also talk to us on our free phone number by calling 0808 800 1037, or our online chat at the bottom of this page.