Over the next couple of weeks, people in over 150 countries worldwide will be raising awareness of Safer Internet Day, an annual event focused on online safety. Safer Internet Day 2020 falls on Tuesday 11 February, so there’s still plenty of time for you to arrange an event of your own.
If you work with children under the age of 18 in the United Kingdom, you’ll already know that online safety is an important aspect of good safeguarding training. That’s why, here at the Child Protection Company, we support the event and hope that you’ll join us and many thousands of others in raising awareness of the topic too.
It’s essential to keep up to date with online safety best practice due to the fast-changing nature of the internet, social media, and available technology. Because of this, for Safer Internet Day, we’ve created a list of useful online safety tips you should be aware of in 2020 and beyond.
Stranger doesn’t always equal danger, but you do need to be careful about who you talk to online…
We get it, it’s impossible to tell a child not to talk to anyone they don’t know online when so many of their social media accounts and online games involve interactions with strangers. It’s almost unavoidable, and now that the lines between the internet and real life are becoming more blurred for children growing up today, we simply need to accept that online friendships are a reality.
However, this doesn’t mean to say that we should let our children speak to anyone as if they are a friend online. Instead, we should be teaching our children effective ways of communicating with strangers on the internet that do not involve giving away any personal information or sharing real life details.
We support the idea of teaching your child not to use their real name or photos online unless absolutely necessary (and most of the time, it isn’t necessary).
We don’t mean that they should use a fake identity but rather that they should adopt a nickname or username and use photos of favourite cartoon characters or artwork in place of real photos for any online accounts.
On social media, where this is not always possible, if your child decides to use their own name and photos, make sure that they have their privacy settings set to the highest possible setting. This will avoid unwanted attention from strangers who might not have the best intentions. It will also give them an extra layer of protection from people they know in real life who they might not want accessing their personal information.
Be careful what you wish for…and what you post online!
Every interaction on the internet, from comments to private messages, is like writing into a logbook that will stick with you forever. That’s a big commitment for a thought that passed through your brain only a few seconds ago when you saw that tweet and decided to type an angry response…!
You can’t permanently erase anything that has been said online, not even by deleting your comments and messages, even if it seems like you’ve removed posts on the surface.
Yes, it’s possible to delete a status to stop your family from seeing those embarrassing song lyrics you posted a few years ago, but bear in mind that your data is recorded every time you interact with anything or anyone online, so there could be ways of accessing such information even after hitting “delete”.
Be mindful of the phrase, “Once on the internet, always on the internet,” and always think twice before you post something. If this information got into the wrong hands or was made public, would you be comfortable with having it shared?
We know it can be difficult to help children see into the future and the concerns they might need to think about long-term, but this is one point you really need to drive home for young people in order to protect their future wellbeing.
Even if it happened online, cyberbullying is a real-life form of harassment, with real-life consequences…
Cyberbullying might sound relatively harmless, but what can begin as a joking comment on a photo could soon turn into constant harassment, the spread of harmful rumours, and threats of real-life abuse or harm.
The best way to deal with an incident of cyberbullying is to catch it as soon as it begins. Have a low tolerance for what is or isn’t acceptable online and teach children to report anything, no matter how small, that seems like it might have been posted with bad intentions. This can be anything from a nasty comment to a photo shared between friends.
Most social media and online gaming sites have easy-access options to report harmful content, with additional options to block any users who might be causing a problem. You should do both the moment you receive a nasty comment or ill-intentioned contact from someone online, whether you know them in real life or not.
However, we understand that incidents of cyberbullying can seem difficult to navigate when the person bullying you is someone you know in real life. We encourage you to seek real-life help as well as reporting harmful content online when this happens.
Tell a teacher or trusted adult about what has happened and take a screenshot of any messages or interactions so that you have evidence of the bullying. This will come in useful later along the line if the problem persists.
Cyberbullies should be mindful that getting in trouble at school is only the tip of the iceberg. Harassment is a crime and can be punished by law if the case is serious enough.
It doesn’t matter if “everyone else is doing it” when it comes to cyberbullying. If you know that something is wrong or unkind, be the braver person and report what you have seen rather than joining in with the crowd.
For more information about online safety training, please click here to view our e-Safety Training courses for staff in education and parents/carers.
If you’d like to speak to a member of our friendly customer support team about safeguarding or online safety training for yourself or your workplace, please get in touch by calling us on 01327 552030, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or use the live chat feature available on this website.
The Child Protection Company offices are open from 9am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday.