These days almost all of us regularly use computers, smartphones and the internet, and we know how quickly technology changes.
Our children often know more about how tech works than we do, but they aren’t as worldly-wise as they are technically savvy, and can be at risk of sharing too much information with their online networks.
So here are our top tips for staying safe online, both for you and your children:
1. Think carefully about what you share
A good way to think about this is, what details would you be happy to reveal about yourself on a poster in your high street? How could a stranger use that information?
Think carefully before you reveal details such as full name, address, passwords, email address, age/full date of birth, photos, videos, work, school, phone numbers, bank details, future plans, location, membership details of clubs etc. It’s amazing how much can be found out about an individual by gathering details from lots of different sites.
2. Stay private
Social networking sites have privacy settings which allow you to control who can see what’s on your profile. Make sure you use these to restrict who can see and share your content.
Then speak to your teens, friends and family and encourage them to tighten their privacy settings too. Even if your account is locked as private, personal information you have shared with others could still be accessed through their pages.
3. Get smart about social media
If you have teenage children and you aren’t on any social networking sites, it’s a good idea to have a look and even set up your own profile. This will remove some of the mystery! Get your teen to help - perhaps asking them for tips on privacy settings as this could be a good way to initiate a discussion.
4. Remember – once online, online forever
As well as thinking about the type of information you and/or your child put online, also think about who has access to it and how long it will stay online. It’s very common for employers or university and college admissions to search online for details about prospective candidates.
Whenever you're about to post something online, pause and just imagine someone in authority, someone you respect, or someone you want to impress, reading that post or looking at that photo. If that feels uncomfortable, don't do it.
Remember, once you've put a picture of yourself online, other people may be able to see it and download it - it may not just be yours anymore.
5. Respecting others
It isn’t just about being careful with your information, it’s also important to respect information about others too. Make sure especially that teens understand how easy it can be to affect friends or family by something as simple as a careless comment, forwarding an email, or uploading or tagging photos and videos – that can be how online bullying starts. It is good practice to ask permission of other people in any images posted.
Equally, as a parent, do you really need to post your teen’s baby photos with the dodgy haircut and bad outfit? It’s easy for these things to be found and forwarded – their whole school could see it in minutes!
6. Keeping it under wraps
For your teenager, socialising, developing relationships and exploring sexual identity is a big part of life, and online technology has helped remove some of the awkwardness we may remember from teen relationships.
In most cases, the constant messaging via mobiles is harmless fun. However, teenagers have been known to take, send and receive messages of a sexually explicit nature often containing images.
It may be an uncomfortable conversation, but highlight the risks of ‘sexting’ (or sharing any ‘risqué’ images) to your teen. Encourage them to think before they send, as they lose control of an image or any content the second they press send.
7. Know who knows where you are
Some sites and services allow you to update your location, showing where you are at any time of the day. Make sure you know who can view this information. Think about how many online ‘friends’ you don’t know in real life.
It’s worth pointing out that these services have been used by burglars as they can show when there’s no-one at home.
There are lots of places you can go for further help and advice, particularly if you are looking for suggestions to help your children and teenagers online. A good place to start is CEOPS and their website https://www.thinkuknow.co.uk