Staying safe online
It's important to know how to stay safe when you're using the internet. You should never give out any personal information when you're online to people you do not know face to face - no matter who you think you're talking to.
Using the internet
There are lots of sites around that allow you to talk to other people on the web. Chat rooms give you the chance to have a conversation with other people and get instant replies. Online message boards and forums let you post questions or comments and ask other users to give their opinion in their own time.
It can be a great way to chat to other people who share your interests, but you should always be careful not to pass on any of your personal details.
You should always keep in mind that internet users can pretend to be anyone they like. They can lie about their age, their interests and whether they're male or female. No matter how long you've been chatting, remember that they're still strangers; you don't really know them at all.
Social networking sites
Some of you may have your own Bebo account or Facebook profile that lets you chat with friends or communicate with other users who share your interests. These 'social networks' let you create your own blog, upload photos and videos for others to see and add people to an online friends list.
Social networks are a great way of keeping in touch but you should think carefully before adding someone to your list of online friends or posting information that you wouldn't be happy with your parent/carer or teacher seeing.
- once you've shared something online you have lost control of it
- people may still be able to see things you've posted online, months or years later
- some people may use what you've posted online in ways you don't like - or couldn't even imagine
- without you knowing, some people may share things about you which are upsetting
- to make sure you know who to contact if someone has upset you, made you feel uncomfortable, or you need support to deal with bullying
If you are looking for more information about staying in control of your page and how to get the most out of social networking sites, ThinkUKnow has all the advice you need.
Chat room safety
When you're using a chat room or posting on a message board, never give out any personal information like your address or your phone number. You should always use a nickname, so no-one can look you up in a telephone directory and get your home phone number.
Think carefully about meeting someone in the real world who you only know online. If you do decide to meet an online friend, you should always take a trusted adult with you.
- Read about the dangers of online chatrooms - kidsmart website
- Top tips on staying safe online - thinkuknow website
Some websites will ask you to fill out a registration form before you can use them. While this is normal, it's a good idea to find out what the website will do with your personal details.
All companies that collect information have to tell their customers how personal information will be used. Make sure you check the website's terms and conditions if you want to know.
Some sites allow other companies to use details from their user database for market research purposes. Companies have to give you the chance to tell them if you don't want your details to be used in this way. This is often done by having a tick box on the online registration page. If you don't want your information to be used, tick that box before you submit your information.
Protect yourself and your computer against online threats
Many people still don't like shopping on the internet because they think their bank details are not safe. Luckily, shopping on the web is now just as safe as ordering goods over the telephone, as long as you follow a few common sense rules.
If you do order goods over the internet, make sure that the company you're buying from uses a secure shopping server. You'll know if it is a secure site if a padlock icon appears at the bottom of your browser window, or the web address begins with 'https:'.
If it's a company that you've never heard of before, search their site for any contact numbers and postal addresses. If they're a respectable company, they won't mind you giving them a quick call to ask them a few questions.
Also, make sure that you never send your bank details to anyone in an email. Banks and online stores will never ask you to do this as it is not a secure way of sending information.
- if you receive an official-looking email that asks you to send your financial details, you should never reply as you could become a victim of identity fraud
- if you have ever shared any of your online passwords with someone in the past - you need to change them
- to use strong passwords that have a mixture of letters, symbols and numbers - rather than something someone may guess
- to tell the truth about your age - do not lie about it to buy, or do things online which are meant for adults - this would be breaking the law
- when you have finished online, remember to log out properly - this is really important if you use a shared computer