If you are using the internet you are potentially connected to every other computer and user also using the internet. That means you have access to some incredibly excellent resources of information, entertainment, shopping, social interaction, but it also means that you and the machines or gadgets you are using to access the internet are being targeted by those with criminal or less honourable intentions. In addition to great stuff out there on the internet you might accidentally(?) have already found some of the unpleasant stuff as well. The problem is that most dangers are hidden, such as web pages containing viruses, or rather ‘trojans’ – programs designed to hide on your PC and record what you do online. It might not affect you unduely apart from slowing your computer down, but if you are old enough to buy things online or check your bank balances it becomes a whole lot more inconvenient!! – So do make sure you are using upto date virus protection (one that updates itself on a weekly if not hourly basis!) and also a firewall.

It’s a myth to also think that Apple devices are automatically virus free… they are not. There have been viruses and trojans discovered for Apple and other mobile devices. The programmers of viruses/trojans/worms malware in general are always looking to what is popular and the popularity of iPhones and iPads makes these a great target as is any smart phone.

Have strong passwords

Do you use a ‘safe’ password, something no one else can guess? If you can look it up in any dictionary it is NOT safe. Remember computers are fantastic at carrying out repetitive tasks and testing any log-on by submitting a whole dictionary or two of words is actually a matter of minutes if not seconds. Even replacing letters with common substitutions is not that safe any more, (e.g. safe becomes s4f3), but it does make a stronger password.

Have you told a friend your password? If you have then it is not safe, no matter how much you trust your friend.

Do you use something that’s personal to you? E.g. address, your sibling’s name, pet’s name? This might be easier for you to remember, but it can also be guessed. So make it a combination of things if you have to do this.

So what is a safe password? A truly random sequence of letters and numbers which you have never told anyone else is about as safe as it gets and the longer the better. Adding special characters such as ! or ? if these are available helps as well, but not all password systems accept these special characters. If you have difficulty remembering such a random sequence, then go for a combination of letters and numbers made up from parts of things you know e.g. postcodes (ZIP codes), telephone numbers, car registration plate, house number, school, place of work, street you grew up, etc …

Cyber S-M-A-R-T

There are lots of organisations out there to help. Childnet is one of them. For children and youth there are additional problems, mostly through not understanding the internet or mobile and smart phones. If you share something with someone by internet or phone it’s not private or you’d better hope that the person at the other end is who they are (if you’ve never met them) or even if you know them personally that what you shared with them they’ll keep private.

One of the biggest problems is ‘sexting’. Sending explicit texts or images by phone. Smart phones having a camera on them and the ability to quickly share makes it very tempting to do this especially with boy and girl friends. Unfortunately a lot of young people are finding those images or texts coming back to haunt them – from finding out that the images or messages were being shared around to blackmail and being coerced (forced) into doing worse things.  Some more information here http://www.kidshelp.com.au/grownups/getting-help/cyberspace/sexting.php

So what is Cyber SMART? It’s an acronym to help children and young people remember some rules of using the internet:

  • S = Secrecy: Keep your personal details secret. Never use your parents’ credit card without their permission, and never give away your name, address, or passwords – it’s like handing out the keys to your home!
  • M = Meetings: Never meet someone you have contacted on the web without your parent’s/carer’s permission, and then only when they can be present.
  • A = Accepting: Do not accept or open attachments or download files from people or organisations you don’t really know or trust – they can contain viruses
    or nasty messages.
  • R = Remember: Anybody online may not be who they say they are. If you feel uncomfortable or worried in a chat room simply get out of there!
  • T = Tell: Tell your parent or carer if someone or something makes you feel uncomfortable or worried.

courtesy of Childnet International)

Further advice and help

Sites offering help and advice on all issues for youth and children.

Protecting Children’s Privacy Online – A Guide for Parents, Carers and Educators

There’s a brilliant piece about protecting yours and your child’s privacy online by Paul Bischoff. Well worth a read

Home Safety: Keeping Your Kids Safe Online https://usinsuranceagents.com/home-online-safety

Excellent article by US Insurance Agents with advice for keeping safe at home including the often forgotten advice that parents should set a good example of online safety so they can talk about what and why they are doing what they do (and don’t do).

Chat Danger www.chatdanger.com

Advise for children and
youth on the safe use of online chat rooms (IRC, etc) and the possible
dangers – Part of Childnet

ChildLine www.childline.org.uk

UK Charity providing a confidential helpline for children to call in the
UK. Good website for children including information on school problems or trouble at
home or tips on how to be a good friend. If you
are a child in trouble or in danger ring them. Its free… Keep trying if
they are engaged, unfortunately you are not alone! Need
their number? 0800 11 11

Childnet International

For children upto 11 years old http://www.childnet.com/young-people/primary
For children 11-18 old http://www.childnet.com/young-people/secondary

A non-profit organisation working around the
world to help make the internet a safer and a great place for children.

For Kids By Kids Online (FKBKO) www.fkbko.net

The childrens section of ‘The Once Project
providing vital information on how to stay safe on the net and tricks to learn whether the other person is genuine and catch them if they are not.

GetNetWise www.getnetwise.org

Valuable advice for staying safe while using
the internet given by this American non-profit organisation (Hyperlink
opens their page within this sites frame, so you can easily browse the
information and come back here…)

WhoIsHostingThis: Protecting Your Kids on the Internet www.whoishostingthis.com

A nice piece about what parents can do to protect their children online and what help is available to them.

Kidscape www.kidscape.org.uk

Charity committed to keeping children safe from harm or abuse focusing
on preventative policies and tactics to use before any abuse takes
place. Website concentrates on material dealing with bullying and contact
information for the organisation.

NSPCC www.nspcc.org.uk

(National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) The UK’s
primary charity dealing with prevention of child abuse. Also has a 24 hour
helpline 0808 800 5000

Pupiline www.pupiline.net

A multi award winning site set up by teenagers for teenagers. Founded by
Oli in response to being bullied at school,  ‘Pupiline is a
bright and bold site..’ that has attracted a lot of media coverage
and often referred to in Radio 1’s, late night “Sunday Surgery”
as a valuable source of information for teenagers.

NB Content on this site is for teenagers and certain areas may not be suitable for

The Once Project www.theonceproject.net

Good source for learning about identity deception in chat rooms and how to fight it.

UK Missing Children Website www.missingkids.co.uk

A site dedicated to help reunite missing children
with their families. The site has support from a number of UK charities
and organisations.


Shopping online?

With the ability to shop online criminals are constantly finding news ways to part you from your money, be it scams or malware computer programmes. Online stores are not always genuine, so do your research first. The following link to advice about shopping online and security was recommended by a fellow user of funandgames.org




Following sites are very useful if you have concerns about bullying.
Providing information on what is bullying, how to prevent and protect, what to
do to help those being bullied or even what to do if you know a child who is

www.pupiline.co.uk – Written by teenagers for teenagers

NB. While all the above links provide good advice, be aware that some sites cover issues that may not be so suitable for younger children.

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