How do we protect young people online?

Posted on 09 March 2017

The news today of a man who posed as Justin Bieber online and has subsequently been charged with more than 900 child sex-related crimes in Australia, raises significant concerns on how to protect children online.

Will Gardner, CEO of Childnet says:

“Stories like this highlight that there are real risks online and show the importance of working to support children and young people to use the internet safely.
Whilst the internet is mostly a positive place for young people it is vital that they are equipped to manage the potential risks they may face online. Children of all ages need to know that they can turn to a trusted adult if something or someone makes them feel uncomfortable online. Our education team works with children from the ages 3-17 to discuss these risks and empower them to navigate the online world safely and positively.”

Our advice for parents:

Have an open and honest conversation

Have ongoing, open and honest conversations with your children about their use of the internet. If your children have heard this news story then you can use this as a conversation starter to encourage your child to think critically about their online friends. It’s important that you are there to listen and help your children with any problems they may face online, even though they may be difficult conversations to have. Try our conversation starters to help you talk about online safety with your family (http://www.childnet.com/parents-and-carers/have-a-conversation).

Make your children aware

It’s important to make sure your children are aware that not everyone they speak to online may be telling the truth. Even though someone may claim to be their favourite celebrity it may not be true. It’s important that they firstly look for a verified tick on an account, these can be seen on Twitter and Facebook as little blue icons next to a person’s name. These ticks or icons are an assurance by the service that the account is a genuine one for that celebrity.

Know how to report

If your child has been contacted by an adult online and you are suspicious about the nature of this contact then it’s important to report it immediately. Reports can be made to CEOP Command (https://www.ceop.police.uk/safety-centre/). Child sexual abuse images can also be reported to the Internet Watch Foundation (https://www.iwf.org.uk/

Other useful links

For young people:

Be careful of who you trust online

Is the person who you are talking to who they say they are? Checking to see if an account is verified is a great way to do this. Accounts for celebrities and well-known people are shown by a little blue symbol next to their name on Twitter and a verified button on Facebook.

People online are still strangers

Although you may talk to someone a lot online it’s important to remember that, if you only know them online, they are a stranger. This is also true even if they are a celebrity and you think you know a lot about them.

It’s never too late to tell someone

Remember that if anyone makes you uncomfortable online or is asking you to do something that you don’t want to then say no and block or report that person. It’s also really important to tell someone whether that is a trusted adult or by reporting them to the police. These reports will be taken seriously.

Look out for your friends

If a friend ever tells you about somebody or something online that has worried them, be a good friend and support them. Part of supporting them is to make sure you tell a trusted adult about what has happened, even if you think it isn’t a big deal. That way, your friend can get the help and support they need if something does go wrong.

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