The Internet offers so much – you can learn new things, meet new people and have lots of fun. Chat rooms can be a good way to talk with people your own age: you can swap ideas; talk about interests; help each other out and chat about everyday life. But you need to be aware that there is always the possibility you can get involved in risky situations and there are dangers to avoid, so you can surf safely.
Avoid online dangers
You need to be aware that there is always the possibility you can get involved in risky situations. To help you avoid online dangers, we’ve put together some tips on how to surf safely.
Top tips for safe surfing
- Keep your personal info private
You wouldn’t tell a stranger in the street anything personal; it’s just the same giving information out on the Internet. Never give out your address, phone number or email address or any details about your school or college. Don’t send out a photo of yourself, without checking with an adult first and be careful not to give out your A/S/L (Age/Sex/Location) – if someone asks where you’re from, just give your town or region – keep things general.
- Don’t be too trusting
When you’re on the web, you can’t see who you are talking to and you don’t know if what they say is true or even if they are who they say they are. You need to think sensibly when having a chat with someone. Don’t believe everything you read.
- Never meet up with anyone from the web
You should never meet up with anyone you chat to on the web, unless you have told an adult about your meeting and they attend with you.
- Offensive messages
Don’t answer offensive messages. If you read anything that is cruel, rude, racist or threatening then ignore the message – it’s not worth a reply.
- Be careful what you write
Don’t write anything that could upset people or that isn’t true as it could land you in trouble.
- Changing your email address
Keep your email address just as secure as your mobile or home phone number and your home address. If you think that a stranger knows your e-mail address, or if you’ve been emailed by someone you don’t know, it’s a good idea to change it. If you have a web-based email account such as Hotmail or Yahoo!, you need to log onto your account and amend your personal details.
- Tell an adult you know
If you are worried about something or someone on the Internet, tell an adult you know and trust – your parents, carers or a teacher. Even if you think they might be cross, your safety is the most important thing and they will be able to help.
There have been high-profile incidents in the media where young people have met up with people from through internet chat rooms and been hurt. It’s true that some adults who are not what they pretend to be surf through chat rooms to find vulnerable young people who are willing to meet them. However, don’t get nervous or panic, as keeping safe in chat rooms is easy – just follow the tips above.
Moderated Chat Rooms
If you want to chat online but are unsure whether it’s safe or not, then think about using a moderated chat room, which means that an adult will keep an eye on the conversations and will step in if they think there is a problem.
Another example of a moderated chat room is the Habbo Hotel at www.habbohotel.co.uk/habbo/en/. Loads of teens from all over the world use this site. Just remember that whatever chat room you are using – surf safely.
Safer Internet Day: Helping you to stay safe online
Every year on Safer Internet Day, countries around Europe take part in themed events to highlight the importance of staying safe online.
Public events take place across the country in schools, youth groups and clubs to mark the day. Parents are encouraged to keep an eye on what their children are doing online, while children and young people can get involved with projects that emphasise internet safety.
Some of the projects you might get involved with at your school or youth group to mark Safer Internet Day include making leaflets, posters and videos that get the message across about using the internet safely. Look out for events going on in your school and community around mid February.
Who can help?
In September 2008, a new UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) was launched to help protect you when you are online. The council – made up of Internet safety experts, leading children’s charities, parents and young people – aims to deliver suggestions made in Dr Tanya Byron’s review on ‘Safer Children in a Digital World’. You can read Dr Byron’s full report here.
Find out more about Safer Internet Day, including safety issues and what’s going on to mark the day in this country, by visiting www.saferinternet.org/
Thinkuknow has loads of information on how to stay safe online. You can also use the website to make a complaint or report a problem about someone you’re chatting to online. To find out more visit www.thinkuknow.co.uk
Habbo Hotel is a virtual hotel where you can meet your friends and make a room of your own. Habbo Hotel is moderated 24 hours a day by professional moderators.
Childnet International is an organisation which works towards making the Internet a great and safe place for children.
For information on the sites you like to visit and how to stay safe on them, visit www.thinkuknow.co.uk.