What is the definition of the word 'safe'?

"protected from or not exposed to danger or risk; not likely to be harmed or lost."

Being safe online & out-and-about is important. Learning to "think before you act" is vital to your overall safety. 

Here are some personal awareness safety tips for you to keep in mind when online & going about your day.

Stay safe online with these tips

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The internet is a great way to connect with your friends and learn new things. But it's also important to stay safe and be aware of who wants to get to know you online.

Here are a ways to keep you away from online danger:

  • Be careful what you share online
  • When you choose a profile picture for social networking sites, avoid pics that could give strangers clues about where you live
  • Do not use a seductive profile picture
  • Check your privacy settings regularly
  • Think about what should be shared in public and what shouldn't
  • Check your location settings – some sites and apps let you share your location with other users. Make sure that is turned off
  • Learn about how you can take care of your digital footprint
  • Be your own person
  • Don’t let friends or strangers pressure you to be someone you aren’t
  • Know your limits. You may be internet savvy, but people and relationships change, and unexpected stuff can happen online
  • If someone’s mean to you, try not to react, definitely don’t retaliate, & talk to your parent/guardians or a trusted adult
  • Use privacy tools to block the meanies
  • Think about what you post
  • Keep passwords private, but do let your parents/guardians know what they are
  • Sharing provocative photos or intimate details online, even in private emails, can cause you problems later on
  • Learn to read between the "lines"
  • Keep in mind that it may be fun to check out new people for friendship or romance, but be aware that, while some people are nice, others act nice because they’re trying to get something from you
  • Flattering or super supportive messages may be more about manipulation than friendship or romance
  • Don’t talk about sex with strangers
  • Be cautious when communicating with people you don’t know in person, especially if the conversation starts to be about sex or physical details
  • Don’t lead them on – you don’t want to be the target of a predator’s grooming
  • Avoid in-person meetings. The only way someone can physically harm you is if you’re both in the same location, so – to be 100% safe – don’t meet them in person. If you really must get together with someone you “met” online, don’t go alone. Have the meeting in a public place, tell a parent/guardian or some other solid backup, and bring some friends along. Never go alone.
  • Be careful who you give your number to and how to use GPS and other technologies that can pinpoint your physical location
  • Be sure to secure your phone with a PIN, password, fingerprint or facial recognition
  • Don’t measure your own life based on what others post
  • People typically post happy photos and stories online and don’t usually share their boring or sad moments or unflattering photos
  • Don’t assume that others have better lives than you do, based on what they post
  • Think about what someone could find out about you that you don't want them to know
  • Be very careful when using a webcam & turn it off when you're not using it anymore
  • Block & report anyone that is being weird with you online, is inappropriate or makes you feel uncomfortable

Ways to keep your devices safe

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  • Use anti-virus software. You can get anti-virus software for mobiles as well as tablets, laptops and PCs. Make sure that you keep it updated.
  • Check a website is secure. Before entering private information such as passwords or payment details, look for the padlock symbol after the web address or 'https' in front of the web address in your browser.
  • Think before you click. If you receive an email from a stranger, think before clicking on a link or an attachment - it could contain a virus.
  • Cover your webcam if you're not using it or unplug it, cover the lens or point it at a blank wall.
  • Check your privacy settings. You can use privacy settings to control who sees your information. Instructions on how to do this depend on what websites and social networking sites you're using. 

Who are your online friends?

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Whatever you like to do online if you're in a forum where other people are, there is a good chance that someone will try to chat with you. Some people may comment on your posts, pics or request to be your friend. Having the "most friends" is not always the wisest! Just because you chat with someone online does not mean that they are your friend. Some people online genuinely want to chat with you about  the same interests you share & nothing more, but that may not always be the case.

Keep in mind, it is easy to lie online. People may use a pic that is not of them & pretend to be someone they aren't. You can't trust someone you don't know. Even if you have been chatting with the same person for some time & you feel comfortable communicating with them, remember that there is no way to really know if they are telling you the truth about who they are.

In fact, there are some people who use the internet to chat with kids because they want to hurt them or make them do things they don’t want to.

So, if you start chatting with someone online consider them a stranger, even if you have been chatting with them for awhile & nothing bad has happened.  Just because someone sends you a"friend request" doesn't mean you have to accept it. 

REMEMBER – groomers are very patient, so if someone makes you feel uncomfortable, worried or even frightened online you should tell your parents/guardians or an adult you trust,  Whatever may have happened you won’t be in trouble.

Genuine or fake?

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As mentioned above, it's impossible to know if someone you meet online is genuine or a fake. 

Here are some warning signs that may help you determine if they may be fake or have bad intentions:

  • Do they seem too good to be true?
  • Do they like all the same things you do?
  • Do they give you lots of attention? 
  • Do they comment on your posts/pics in ways that seems inappropriate?
  • Do they ask you a lot of questions that make you feel uncomfortable?
  • Do they make promises & offer you gifts?
  • Do they use sexual language when they chat with you?
  • Do they make you feel pressured to do things you don't want to do?
  • Do they only want to chat with you via "private message"?

Staying safe when going about your day

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Grooming does not only occur online, in fact it can happen face-to-face, by a stranger or by someone you know - for example a family member, friend or professional. The goal of the groomer is to create an emotional bond with a kid & gain their trust . Groomers can be men or women, young or old. Grooming occurs over time without the kid realizing what has happened until it's to late.

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Here are ways that a person may attempt to gain the trust of a kid & begin the grooming process & these can happen in person or online:

  • Tell the kid often how pretty they look & that they could be a model, then over-time asking the kid to pose for sexy pictures.
  • Tell the kid that their parents don't really care about them because they are too busy to do what the kid wants to do.
  • Find out what the kid likes & get that for them, then ask the kid to "pay-it-back" in a sexual way.
  • Isolate a kid from the group by asking them to help with "special projects" .
  • Threatens a kid with personal harm if they don't do what the person wants.
  • Tells a kid that they will harm their family if they don't do what the person wants.
  • An adult who asks a kid to babysit & tells them they can sleep over .
  • Slowly touching kid in a friendly, then not-so-friendly way over time.
  • Telling kids dirty jokes to lower their inhibitions.
  • Showing kids pornography.
  • Learning secrets the kids have & use that against them. 
  • Following a kid home so they know where they live.
  • Giving or providing alcohol & drugs to a kid.
  • An adult who asks when your parents are home.
  • Tells a kid that they are the only one that really cares about their problem.