10 steps to stay safe online
We all spend time online, playing games, chatting with friends and sharing what we’re up to. But it’s important to remember that the things we put online can be seen by lots of people. Every time you go online, you add to your digital footprint – leaving a trail of information about you that can be seen by people you know, and by people you don’t.
With our ten steps to staying safe online, you can carry on having fun, without the worry.
1. Choose what you share carefully
It’s quick and easy to post things online, but try to take a moment to think before you click.
If you’re posting photos of yourself, think about what you look like. What would someone think if they didn’t know you? Would you want your parents to see it? Or your employers? The same goes for sharing posts about your friends. Think how you might feel if someone posted it about you.
And remember, it’s easy for other people to copy what you share online (even from live web cams), change it and send it onto others.
2. Check your privacy settings
Most websites, social networks and apps have settings to help you control who can see your information. Do your best to understand the settings on the websites you use and decide who you want to share your posts with.
3. Choose your friends wisely
You might find that lots of people want to be your friend on apps and social networks. To stay safe, it’s best to only be friends with people you know in real life. And if you only know someone online, never agree to meet them in person.
4. Know how to undo mistakes
It’s easy to post something online and then regret it afterwards, so it’s important to know how to undo your mistakes. If you’ve posted something you wish you hadn’t, try to delete it from your account as quickly as you can. If someone else has posted something about you, check the website’s safety centre to find out how to report it.
5. Google yourself and know what’s out there
By regularly popping your name into Google, you can check what people have posted about you online and what people might find if they search your name. It’s the best way to keep on top of your digital footprint and make sure there’s nothing about you online that shouldn’t be there.
6. Delete old accounts
Decided you’re bored of WhatsApp? Had enough of Facebook? If you stop using a website or app, it’s safest to deactivate or delete your account.
7. Respect age restrictions
Some websites, social networks and games have age restrictions. Even if you think you’re old enough, these restrictions are there to keep you safe and make sure you don’t see content that’s not suitable for you.
8. Look out for cyberbullying
Online abuse can happen to anyone. It’s no less serious than abuse in the real world and it can feel like there’s no escape.
When you go online, you can be at risk of cyberbullying, grooming, sexual and emotional abuse from people you know, as well as from strangers. Follow our ten steps to keep yourself safe and, if you feel you might be suffering from any kind of abuse online, talk to someone you trust as soon as you can.
9. Take care in chat rooms
Chatrooms can be a fun way of meeting people with the same interests as you, but you should always take care. Log on with a nickname and never give out any personal information. Even telling someone which school you go to could help them find you.
10. Talk to someone you trust
If you’re worried about something you’ve seen online, it’s good to talk to someone you trust. Whether it’s a parent, friend or teacher, they’ll be able to talk things through and work out the next steps.
If you think you’re being abused online, you may need professional help.If you live in Gloucestershire and are aged 9-21, you can get support from our TIC+ counsellors. TIC+ works hard at raising funds so they can arrange for a counsellor to see you for free, all you need to do is call us on 01594 546117 or text us on 07977 334433 to arrange an appointment. We know it can be hard to take that first step but, like the other young people we’ve helped, you’ll be so glad you did.
If you need to speak to someone urgently, call Childline on 0800 1111, NHS 111 (on 111) or the Samaritans on 116 123. There’s always someone there to help, and any conversations you have with them are confidential.
For more advice check out our SUPPORT RESOURCES page!