What is networking?
Online communities - such as social networking sites - are some of the most popular sites on the web. Millions of people log onto these sites every day to hang out with their friends and talk about their lives. When you sign up you get the chance to create and customise your own profile and you can upload your favourite photos and videos. There are even networks within networks where you can join others who share the same interests, or who live in the same area or go to your school. Most people will have a great time being a member of these sites - but it’s important you take care, particularly when giving out information about yourself. Here are some tips on how to network safely.
Things to think about
- Adding someone as a ‘friend’ means they (and sometimes their friends) may be able to see the things you share, share things with you and even share things about you; can you trust them with your information?
- It’s easy to lie online, not everyone is who they say they are
Things to do
- Learn about privacy settings to take control of your information and decide what information you will share, and who you will share it with - use lists/groups to share different information with different ‘friends’
- Avoid friending people you don’t know in person and sharing personal information with them such as your phone number, home address or photographs
- Learn how to block ‘friends’ in case you feel you need to, and keep the evidence
- Use a strong and unique password for all of your online accounts – a combination of letters, numbers and symbols (and if you’ve ever shared it in the past, change it)
- Think very carefully about meeting someone face to face who you only know online; if you do decide to do this, never go without taking a trusted adult with you
- Only upload or share pictures of yourself which you would be happy for your parents/carers or teachers to see
- Remember to properly log out of a site after use, especially on a shared computer
Additional advice for parents and carers
- Keep an open dialogue with your child about who they’re talking to online and why they should think before talking to people they don’t know in person; try to understand and guide their online behaviour just as you would for their offline activity; negotiate and establish boundaries and discuss sensitively the issues around the concept of ‘friends’ (and ‘friends of friends’)
- Use parental controls to restrict or block access to social networking sites; device-level parental controls mean you can set up unique settings per user so that you can restrict access to particular networks based on the user
- Explain why it’s important to be honest about your age online, for example in signing up to social networking sites – advertising and other content will be aimed at the age the user says they are
- As part of a wider discussion about sex and relationships cover how people may use the internet to explore their sexuality
- If someone is making you feel uncomfortable, talk to an adult you trust, such as a relative or teacher. If you would prefer to talk to someone in confidence you can contact Childline (0800 1111). If someone has acted inappropriately online towards you, or someone you know you can report directly to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP). It could be sexual chat, being asked to do something that makes you feel uncomfortable or someone asking to meet up.
- If someone is bullying you using your information, there is help and support available from CyberMentors and BeatBullying
- Know what to do if something online has upset you: talk to Childline or the Samaritans if you are feeling desperate or sad, B-eat for eating disorder advice and Report-it to report incidents of race hate.