For Safer Internet Day 2013, you sent in your questions about staying safe online. Here Lindsay Buck from the internet safety charity ChildNet and Khalil Madovi who plays Josh in The 4 O’Clock Club, give you some useful advice.

Click on the words below to find out more about the subjects.

General Safety

Why do we need to worry about internet safety? -  SilverSmallFerret

Lindsay says: The internet is an amazing place to connect with your friends and discover new things but it can be easy to make mistakes. The SMART rules on our website will really help you to be safe online. They are “Safe, Meet, Accepting, Reliable and Tell” and they can help you to decide what to do in lots of different situations on the internet. Always make sure though that you ask an adult to help you too, if you are worried about anything online.

How do you be safer on websites? eg. chat rooms, virtual worlds? -  GoldIceDeer

Khalil says: Firstly, I never give out my personal details. The settings I have on the websites I currently use vary. For some social networking sites that can be quite personal I always have my privacy settings as secure as possible and I only ever add my friends! I set my account so I can’t actually be found. There are a few fake accounts set up in my name so beware!

On other social networks I just tend to talk about random things, but I never post any personal details or anything like that, so my privacy settings may be a little bit lower.

Lindsay says: Always ask an adult for help if you are using a new website, so that they can make sure it is suitable for your age group. Some websites need you to be a certain age before you can use them, so it’s important to check.

If you are chatting with people online and can talk to other people on a website or game, always try to make sure that you are only talking to your friends and be sure to keep your personal information safe, e.g. your name, password, email address etc. Remember, friends made just on the internet are still strangers.  

I don't always know when things are safe so can you give me some advice on how to know if something's safe? -  VioletCalmFox

Khalil says: Well, when I consider joining a website I check out if it is an established site. What are the reviews? What details do they require for me to join? Things that would ring bells for me are things like; whether it is compulsory for me to put my full name and address when signing up? Do they ask for my bank account details etc. Those things tend to make me shy away from certain websites. If I’m in any doubt about the safety of I site I won’t join. It’s better safe than sorry!

Lindsay says: The best thing to do in any situation, where you are not sure about something, is to check straight away with an adult that you trust. They will be able to help you and make sure that you are having the best time possible on the internet.

Will there be reviews on every website to make sure it's safe to go on? -  BlueGreenBiscuitGerbil

Lindsay says: Unfortunately not all websites will make it clear who should be using them. Some websites ask you to be a certain age before you can use them, and so this is an important thing to check first. Some games and apps may have been reviewed online by other children’s parents or carers and so your adults may be able to read these first. If you are not sure that you should visit a website, always ask an adult to help! 

Should children not be allowed to use the internet? -  PurpleFluteJedi   I think that children should be allowed on the internet only if an adult it supervising. What do you think? -  GlassBreezyFootball

Khalil says: I think children should be allowed on the internet however they should be supervised by adults until they reach a certain age and level of trust with the adult who supervises them. I think you should also be mindful of the age limits on various sites. They are there to protect you from stuff that might not be appropriate for your age.

The internet can be quite a dangerous place for children, so the supervision of an adult isn’t supposed to make it less fun, but to keep you safe. My Mum still checks my messages on certain websites!

Lindsay says: The internet can be a really fun place for children to explore and learn new things, and to connect with your friends. There are lots of brilliant children’s websites on the internet that you might really enjoy. Some websites though are not for children, and I agree it can often be difficult to know what websites or games to play on.

It is always best to use the internet with an adult if you can, especially if you want to go to a new website. They will be able to make sure that you are visiting the best websites, and are really enjoying yourself on the internet.

In your perspective what’s the worst thing can happen to someone through the internet? -  ApricotFlyingBluebird

Lindsay says: Because everyone is different, children may be upset by different things. What is funny to one person, may not be a joke to someone else. We spoke to lots of children recently who told us that they were sometimes upset by their friends online, or by people who were being mean to them. If anything does happen on the internet that makes you feel sad, worried or confused then the best thing to do is to tell an adult that you trust. 

Online Bullying

Khalil, have you ever been internet bullied? -  CreamCustardHyena

Khalil says: I haven’t been directly bullied, but I have seen unkind things written about me. Comments like “You’re a rubbish actor/ rapper” and I think to myself, have you seen the awards I’ve won??? Lol ;-) People who only choose to speak negatively about me via a computer don’t really have any significance to my life so I tend to ignore it. It says more about them than me. Constructive criticism is always welcome though! J

What can we do if we we're bullied online? -  GoldStormyCabbage

Khalil says: If you someone bullies you online they are usually the one with the problem, not you. If anyone keeps bullying you constantly and it starts to get to you, report them to an adult, block them from your profile and report them to the relevant site administrators.

Lindsay says: The very best thing to do, and also the first thing to do, is tell an adult that you trust straight away, because then someone can start to get the bullying situation stopped. Lots of websites allow you to report other people who are being mean, so look out for this on your favourite websites. You may be able to report profile pages or photos or messages for example.

Although you might want to delete bullying messages it is really important to save them and show them to the adults that you tell, this is your evidence. Also, never reply to a bullying message or be rude back.

My question's about cyber bullying. What's the best thing to do if you know who it is that's bullying you? -  QuartzGymnasticPear

Lindsay says: If you know who it is that is bullying you; then you might feel comfortable talking to them in person, with an adult there to help you e.g. a teacher, if it is a school friend who is doing it. Always ask an adult first before you do this, about what the best thing is to say. Your parent, carer or teacher should be able to decide who to talk to next for you. Even if you know who is bullying you then the same advice is important – save the evidence, tell an adult that you trust and don’t reply to the bullying messages.

Can people get arrested and taken to court because of them saying nasty things on the internet? -  ZirconNoisyAvocado

Lindsay says: Yes. Saying nasty things online to deliberately upset or hurt other people can break the law and people have been arrested and sentenced because of this. In England, Northern Ireland and Wales, the age of responsibility starts at 10 years old.

It is really important not to say unpleasant things on the internet, or to join in with them if other people are. If you do see things online that you know would hurt someone’s feelings, then telling an adult about it is always the best thing to do.  Try to be the best friend online that you can be, and say kind things to your friends on the internet.

Hacking and Viruses

How can you make sure your account on any website doesn't get hacked and if it does what should you do? -  CornelianTitchyVampire

Khalil says: Never tell anyone (apart from your parents) your password! Also when creating a password make it as hard to guess as possible. Things like having numbers and letters in it helps. Make them as random as possible (but not so random you forget it! J)

Lindsay says: Having a strong password is the best way to protect your online accounts. A strong password is long and uses a mixture of capital letters, lower case letters, numbers and symbols so it’s very hard to guess! Your password is personal information and so you need to keep it safe.

If you have shared a password with your friends then create a new one as soon as you can. If your account has somehow been accessed by someone else, (although it is very unlikely to), change your password (and even your email address) straight away. If you are creating a new email address then please ask an adult to help you choose a suitable name for it.

Can you get a virus off your friends' texts? -  PinkRaindropGecko

Khalil says: I didn’t think you could get a virus on your phone. I think I’ll leave this one for the professionals to answer …

Lindsay says: Viruses can affect mobile phones and if a friend sends you a message, with a website address in it for example, then this might happen. You can protect a phone with anti-virus software, just like a computer. If you are not sure about a message that you receive, then always check with an adult before you open the message and ask them to delete it if they are worried about it. Your friend can always send you the message again if it was ok!

How bad can a virus get if you don't stop it? -  JadeGymnasticWriter

Khalil says: A virus can stop your computer from working properly if you don’t stop it early! It won’t damage your hardware, so it won’t blow up your PC but it can completely remove all of your files and stuff too, which come to think of it is much worse! Been there, done that, not a good experience! Needless to say I got in trouble. Let’s just say it wasn’t only my files that got wiped…

Lindsay says: Computer viruses can be quite different and can do different things. However, you can get special protection for your computers, laptops and other devices that use the internet, called “anti-virus” software, and these are very good because they can stop viruses from getting to your computer in the first place. If you are worried, ask the adults that you live with to check that you have up to date anti-virus software and you should be fine.  

Online Contact With Strangers

What do you do when you get an email from someone you don't know? -  BlackDancingPuffin

Khalil says: I won’t even open it. I’ll delete it straight away. I don’t tend to get mail from strangers often because I keep my details quite private. If people need to get in touch with me work-wise they go through my Mum who vets all such emails. So there really isn’t a need for someone to have my personal email address.

Lindsay says: If you get an email from someone that you don’t know then please don’t open it, as you don’t know what it’s going to say or have in it, especially if there is a file attached. Tell an adult straight away and they will be able to decide what to do, for example deleting it for you.

There is this girl in my class who told me she went on this website where you talk to strangers and I have been wondering whether to tell a teacher or not as I think it's illegal but I am not sure. Any advice? -  NavyBlueKnittingSeal

Lindsay says: Telling someone if you are worried is always the best thing to do, like a parent, carer or teacher, you are absolutely right! If you are chatting to people on the internet, then it is best to chat to your friends only and the people that you trust. Remember, friends made just on the internet are still strangers.

My Mum and Dad have got a poster that tells you how to be smart online. But what should you do if you tell someone you know your personal details? Is that bad or not? -  CrystalNuttyMonkey

Lindsay says: That sounds like a great poster! Your personal details are just for you, and should always be kept as safe as possible! If you are worried that you might have shared something online, then please do tell an adult and ask them to help you. Your personal information is things like your full name, your home address, school address, email address, phone numbers and passwords etc. If you have shared a password with someone then ask someone to help you change it straight away.

What should you do if you get an inappropriate message or photo from somebody you don't know or someone pretending to be somebody you know? -  TanzaniteTubaRockstar

Lindsay says: If you read, watch, see or hear anything inappropriate online then please tell someone straight away. Things like inappropriate photos or messages can often be reported to the websites that they are on and an adult should be able to help you to do this. If you are not sure that someone is actually who they say they are, or might be pretending to be someone then it is important not communicate with them.

Khalil says : Delete, delete, delete! It only takes one dodgy email and a virus is worming its way through your files! Once bitten twice shy, so I won’t risk it.

What would happen if you thought you were talking to your friend but someone has hacked into their email and asks you to meet up with them? -  MaroonMusicalGecko

Lindsay says: This is a very good question, with a very simple answer. It is never safe to meet up with anyone that you have met on the internet, that you have not met before in the “real world.” If you are worried that you are talking to someone who is not who they say they are, or a stranger is bothering you, then this can be reported to the CEOP website, please talk to an adult that you trust first, and ask them to do this for you.

If your friend is worried that someone might be using their account then they should change their password straight away and choose a really good one that can’t easily be guessed! 

Khalil says: This hasn’t ever happened to me, but if it did, I’d probably text/ phone my friend on their mobile phone to make sure it was them. With your friends you tend to be able to tell when it is and isn’t them as well. If in doubt, check it out (ultimate cheese, but true)

I want to be a model so what should I do if I get an email asking for my name, age and gender and saying they'll send their agent round? -  OchreHilariousSinger

Lindsay says: If you receive any emails, about any subject, from people that you do not know, asking you for your personal details then it is very important not to reply. Real modeling agency websites will always let you know how you can contact them and how they will contact you.

If you are worried about an email that has asked for your information then please tell a parent or carer straight away, they will be able to read the email for you and decide what to do e.g. delete it for you, and look online to find a legitimate agency that you can go to in person.   

I was wondering if you wanted to be on a show like "The 4 O'Clock Club" and the casting people want you to send a picture of yourself and you don't want to, what should you do? -  VioletMoonWriter

Khalil says: Firstly you shouldn’t be sending your details anywhere… At all! This should only be done by your agent. If you don’t have one then your parents should be handling this. This ensures that a responsible adult knows exactly where your details are going.

Good casting directors, for shows like The 4 O’Clock Club, can be trusted with your pictures.  They are reputable companies with a track record of dealing with this sort of information. They cannot misuse your photos and there are guidelines in place that regulate them and the use of your details

Lindsay says: If someone that you don’t know asks you to send them a picture then it is very important not to do so, until you have spoken to a trusted adult straight away. An adult will be able to decide if the request for a picture is a real one and if it has come from a casting agent.

Unfortunately it can be difficult to know if someone is telling the truth on the internet and a trusted adult will be able to help you send any photos that you need to, to the right people. If your adult decides that it is not a real casting agent who has asked you for a photo then this can be reported to the CEOP website .

Social Networking and Chat Rooms

I think that social networking sites should be more strict about age. What do you think? -  CrimsonPaintingGirl

Khalil says: I think the sites themselves are strict enough, the problem lies with the people that use them. A lot of people these days tend to lie about their age just so they can join a site, which can expose you to things that are not age appropriate.

Lindsay says: Most social networking sites have a minimum age of 13. There are however social networking sites that are available for younger internet users, such as some interactive games sites where you can create your own profiles and connect with your friends in the game.

It is really important to be truthful, and not lie about your age online because the age limits are there to protect you. It’s a great idea to share the best websites for your age group with your friends as you may be able to use them together!

Is there anything bad about putting videos about yourself on the internet? I do random blogs and music videos and want to know if I should be taking them down rather than putting them up? -  ScarletVanillaFig

Khalil says: It totally depends on how old you are, how safe you are, and how responsible you are. I used to do the same thing myself and I’m going to start putting some music online too. Just be sure not to give away any of your details in your videos!

Also think about what you are putting out there because once in cyber space it can go viral. Don’t put anything that compromises or embarrasses your or anyone else for that matter. You may think the worst thing that can directly happen to you is just people saying unkind things about your videos online. Who cares about them right? But if you put really inappropriate stuff out there it could actually be a criminal offence.

With all that said I definitely think it has more benefits than anything else when you manage it correctly ;)

Lindsay says: What an excellent question. The internet is a super way to show off your talents, you might be a great dancer, gymnast, singer, footballer, artist or even film director! However it can be easy to share your personal information without realising it sometimes and so the best thing to do is talk it through with an adult first. They will be able to help you decide which photos or videos or blog posts can be shared online, and can help you to use the privacy settings that might be available to decide who can see it too.

It’s great to be creative but remember, things uploaded online can remain there forever and so it’s always really important to check with an adult and think before you post.

Why are chat rooms allowed when they say that they can be dangerous? -  AquaWavingHamster   If people know about online safety, why do online game makers do online chats even though it’s risky for children? -  CyanSmallDriver

Lindsay says: Online chats are only dangerous or risky if you take part in the wrong way. Chatting online with friends and family, and within the games that you play, can be a fun way to connect with people that you know already. However, just as you would not speak to strangers by yourself in the “real world,” the same rules are very important for your life on the internet.

It is not a good idea to chat online to people that you do not know because they are still strangers to you. If you are not sure about a website, especially if it has chat options, then ask an adult to have a look at it first. Often you are able to control who you can chat to, and who can chat to you as well.

Useful Websites

If you think that you need further help or information about staying safe online, check out our Stay Safe Useful Websites page

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