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Help & Information

E-Safety Information for Parents

Digital devices and the online world are now an integral part of our young peoples every day lives. Their online and offline communications simply become extensions of one another and so for parents, the challenge of keeping them safe and managing those interactions can prove a real struggle.

For this ‘Cyber Savvy’ generation, the right and ability to use technology manifests itself in a myriad of ways with young people learning, communicating, socialising and gaming through, with and because of technology. However, with rights come responsibilities and as we promote the use of technology, it is important to highlight the responsibilities that must come in tandem with these rights. Technology is easily abused and misused and if we are allowing our children use of and access to these tools, we must ensure they are able to use them safely and respectfully.

Messaging applications can be downloaded to our Smartphones as well as our iPads and PCs. There are countless applications to choose from, but there are a few more popular ones which we have included further on to give you a better understanding of.

Social networking sites offer 24/7 communication with friends and family and therefore offer another mode in which to engage with other people.  Using multiple platforms is now the ‘norm’ with the same content being shared across multiple sites.

Whilst there are rules applied to all sites, users can still abuse those rules.

What happens when things go wrong?

Online-bullying, Trolling, Doxing, Catfishing – all terms you may have heard used in a negative context in reference to the online world. And if affected by any of them, all of these can cause upset and pain to our children. Anonymity online is easily found and so comments can be crueller and due to the invasive nature of our digital devices, harder to escape from.

Hurtful words are powerful and destructive and if we consider how we would feel if we were to receive hurtful comments, we can go some way to understand the impact this has on a young, vulnerable person who feels persecuted by such messages and/or comments.

Comments made online last forever. Ensuring our children leave the best digital footprint possible can be tricky as some don’t realise the implications of their actions. Encouraging them to keep it kind, positive and not to overshare can help a lot in ensuring their online imprint is a positive one.

Online bullying is a real problem in today’s society and as research shows, and so it is paramount that as parents we stay up to date with what are children are doing online. Knowledge is power. Stay informed.

Most commonly used messaging applications and social networking sites:

Facebook

Since the social networking site entered our lives in 2004, it has acquired over 699 million* active users daily and with the average Facebook user having 130 friends*, it seems we are living our lives online. 

Most young people have a Facebook profile and many are also younger than the required age of 13 and see nothing wrong with being younger than the age stipulated when you join. So – does it matter? The answer is yes it does. If users under the age 13 are communicating with someone older, the content of conversation may be above their level of maturity to deal with and this can only lead to problems. Not only this, by allowing them to fake their age to access the site, you are sending out the message that to falsify information is acceptable.

Whilst Facebook is a fantastic way to keep in touch with friends and family, it is also a platform for some people to bully and even stalk people they communicate with and young people feel they are out of their depth. Even worse, belonging to the online community appears to give young people a sense of distance and desensitisation. But online bullying is not acceptable on Facebook or anywhere else online. Although young people need to take responsibility for their own protection, as parents, we also have a responsibility to our children.  A few basic tips to share with your child would be:

  • Regularly check Facebook settings; do not opt for ‘public’ as everyone can view what you post, even people you are not friends with or do not know can see everything on your profile. Instead, set it to ‘friends’
  • Only accept people you know; never accept people you don’t know or who claim to know your friends
  • If you receive nasty messages on your wall, block and report them
  • Never post a picture of you on your profile; by default, this is public and will be seen by everyone and in some cases your picture can be stolen. Instead of your picture as your profile, post a picture of your pet, a cartoon character or any other object that does not in any way tell strangers anything about you. Never, ever post a picture of you in your school uniform as your location can be found by your school badge or tie
  • Never post pictures of yourself online that you would not want your family to see. Also remember that once pictures are posted, you cannot delete them and they can even be stolen by complete strangers and used inappropriately
  • Do not post your location; turn the GPS off on your phone and do not broadcast where you are on Facebook. If your friends know where you are, so do complete strangers
  • Check on your Facebook account how you are viewed by people who do not know you by clicking on ‘View As’ – this will show you how you appear to strangers. If all of your details are on show, you need to alter your security settings! Do this on a regular basis to protect yourself
  • For full details on all Facebook security and privacy information, download our App Information Sheet

(*Source, www.facebook.com)

Ask.fm

A Latvia based site that was created by two brothers in 2010 for Android phones. The premise was to post questions on the message board to elicit replies of a positive nature – all sent under a shroud of secrecy as each post is anonymous. Unfortunately, young people are using this social media platform to send messages to ‘friends’ which are deemed to be offensive and telling them to do harm to themselves. This was not the purpose of the site. Young people have fm linked to their Facebook site and every time a message is posted, others can view it and respond with unpleasant messages and before long, a long trail has been posted causing upset and distress to the person the message was sent to. To eliminate the improper use of Ask.fm:

  • Do not link Ask.fm to any other social media sites
  • Select the option to view all senders of messages and NOT the option that only allows anonymous messages
  • Do not respond to any negative messages; block them and report it to the sites moderator and tell someone you trust
  • People sending unpleasant messages do it to hurt you; try not to react. Although this is not easy to do, it is exactly the reaction the sender wants
  • Download our App Information Sheet  

Kik

This is a free downloadable texting application that can be used on Windows, Androids, iPhones and BlackBerry phones so its reach is quite wide. The ‘application store’ on phones from which you access Kik, rates Kik as only being advisable for 17 years old and above, yet young people are able to bypass this. Not only is Kik being used to send messages, it is also used to send pictures which is yet another platform on which inappropriate messages can be sent. Young people, who use Instagram to upload pictures, are using this as a platform to publicise their Kik username, which is a necessity to enable someone to chat with you.

A recent review featured on iTunes reported the following: “This application is quick and fun, but too many paedophiles asking me for nude pictures…but it is safe as long as you don’t talk to strangers”.  There are some safeguarding tips if you want to prevent under 17’s using Kik; visit www.besmart.com and go to ‘how to restrict apps by rating’ which will take you through what you need to do to safeguard your child from downloading Kik on to their phone.

Download our App Information Sheet

Viber

Launched in 2010, users are able to text, send pictures and share everything that other sites allow you to share allows. It is also free to download and all that is required is an email address to subscribe to the service. If used on iPod Touch, it “converts” to a mobile phone that allows you to text and make “free” calls. It is worth acknowledging that iPod Touch is wi-fi enabled thus allowing unlimited contact with others and is not just a device for gaming and playing music. Viber also has the capacity to send pictures as well as tagging yourself to your location. Used inappropriately, they can have devastating consequences.

Of concern, is the fact that once you have downloaded the application, it searches through your contacts and identifies other users of Viber that extends your connections to a wider audience than you first envisaged (www.icybersafe.com).

Omegle

This site has been available since 2008 and the premise of the website is that you can chat with complete strangers and identify yourself as “you” and the person you are chatting with as “stranger”.  In fact, it’s tagline is ‘Talk to Strangers’.

As the age restriction is set at 13 on Omegle, there is nothing to prevent a young person as signing in as someone who is over the age of 13. Omegle can be linked to Facebook and matches you with strangers with similar “likes” that you have clicked on and Facebook users could potentially see your Omegle activity on your profile, however, as with Facebook, Omegle allows you to chance your setting to “Me only”.

Once within the platform there are options to chat via text, audio or video.

There are three options within it. Moderated, Unmoderated and Adult. Unmoderated and Adult you are asked to confirm you are over 18 but this is not verified in any way.

If your children are using this platform you need to be aware it means they could be chatting to anyone online. The risk of explicit, sexual and inappropriate content is high.

Ensure your children are aware of the risks surrounding use of this platform and as with all online use ensure they are aware of the dangers of disclosing personal information online.

Instagram

Is a photo sharing app where filters allow the user to amend the image in various ways. Users can post photos and followers can comment on or ‘like’ the image. The introduction of the ‘stories’ capability has moved the app on and people now use it to blog,  enabling comments to be posted on stories, albeit in a private capacity.

Risks on the site are both physical and mental.

Physical Risks:

Users need to be aware that on posting they may reveal unintended information about themselves; their location, school, family details etc. The risks around this information leakage can be intensified in the stories function.

Mental Health Risks:

Hashtags make it easy to find images on distressing content.

The reliance on ‘likes’ can lead to self-confidence and self-esteem issues and a distorted view on the world and on self image.

Helpful Tips:

  1. Set your profile to private. Immediately this limits who can view your content and comment on your content, to who you choose.
  2. Don’t use a username which includes your name or age.
  3. Don’t post content which shows your current location or any data that shows where you live, go to school, work etc.
  4. Check your teenagers account regularly. Who are their followers and what accounts are they following?
  5. Check the hashtags they are following – for example – a huge amount of information based around nutrition and diet for can be located simply via hashtags and so it is worth keeping an eye on impressionable teens.
  6. If you think there is any potential at all for inappropriate comments under a post, disable comments.
  7. Chat to your child. Explain that self worth isn’t defined by our on line ‘perceived’ popularity. Likes and shares do not define us.
  8. Channel the positives of Instagram- show them how to use it to seek out community and charity projects and to find useful information online.
  9. Teach them how to use the platform to their advantage – to post their achievements so that they can use it as a cumulative record of work.
  10. Create an account for yourself and use it so that you are familiar with how it works. The more you know the more able you are to support them.

Download our App Information Sheet

WhatsApp

Was founded in 2009 and as well as chat and instant messaging, you can exchange pictures, music and videos via mobile internet or by connecting to Wi-Fi and is available on most platforms. WhatsApp was not created as a platform to send unpleasant messages but it is useful to know that this application is used frequently by young people and no messaging application is exempt from being used for the wrong purpose.      

Download our App Information Sheet

Helpful Tips:

Most of us now use WhatsApp more than i-messaging or text messaging. We use it to send individual texts, for group chats, to share videos, photos, memes and even audio recordings.

  1. Are you aware that when you send a photo via WhatsApp it can (depending on the receivers settings) be added straight to their camera roll. Your settings are irrelevant. It is based entirely on theirs. And if they have their phone photo album synced up to other digital devices that photo can then automatically be uploaded to all of those too. Think how many devices that photo could potentially be uploaded to from one large group chat.
  2. WhatsApp can be and is, used as a tool for online (cyber) bullying. Despite the fact it is an app only designed for use by those of 16 and over, many of our teenagers have access to it. Group chats are used as a way to entice a child in and then once they have joined, the rest of the particpants leave the chat. This leaves a child feeling isolated and victimised even from the privacy of their own bedroom. It can be used as a bullying tool in the workplace too. Numerous group chat creations, where one individual is left out or ostracised can leave colleagues feeling isolated and alone.
  3. WhatsApp is still an app. Conversations and content sent within it need to be considered as once sent the sender loses control of them.
  4. Check your privacy settings. If your photo and ‘last seen’ are set to ‘everybody’ then this can be viewed by anyone who has your phone number. So if that is a photo of your child for example, then it can then be viewed by absolutely anyone who happens to have your phone number stored. Potentially a lot of people. That photo can then be saved onto their personal devices – without either your knowledge or your consent. If you set your privacy at ‘contacts only’ then this data can still be accessed but only by people you have listed as contacts. If you set it to ‘nobody’ then no photo will show at all and the only thing people can see is when you are physically online or ‘typing’ them a message. WhatsApp also syncs directly to your phonebook so you will appear on the WhatsApp listing of anyone who has your number stored in their mobile devices.
  5. You can ‘block’ someone on WhatsApp. If you or your child are being trolled or targeted block the number. By accessing ‘Settings’, then ‘Privacy’ and then adding the number you want to block you can protect yourself against online (cyber) bullying.

Download our App Information Sheet

TikTok

Formerly known as Musical.ly, users record content – mostly short music videos (karaoke style) and share with users of the platform.

In 2019, it was the seventh most downloaded app of the decade. Tik Tok have introduced brand ambassadors and recently announced new legislation to monitor content, however, there are many risks associated with the app, including online bullying and with young people posting content and who that content is then viewed by.

Private accounts can limit who content is seen by, but this is seen by many to detract from the purpose of the app. Equally, even on a private account, it is important to monitor who followers are and to ensure they are only people known to the user.

Physical Risks:

Users need to be aware that on posting they may reveal unintended information about themselves; their location,  school,  family details etc.

Mental Health Risks:

It can be easy to find images on content that is not seen as ideal viewing for teenagers.

Trolling/commenting/bullying that can cause distress.

A distorted view of reality and of self image.

Download our App Information Sheet

Snapchat

An interactive app where users can send content (videos/photos) to one another and to a group. The key to this app is the feature that deletes the content after 24 hours. Filters are also heavily used and are one of the main attractions to the app for younger users.

Risks:

As with Instagram, both the physical and mental risks listed apply.

Snapchat is also used as a tool in online bullying as content is wiped and so it’s harder to hold the bully to account. The feature to screen-shot the content notifies the sender this has been done. People who send content via this app should therefore also be aware their content can get saved and shared on to others and they lose control of the content.

Download our App Information Sheet

VSCO

VSCO

An up and coming app popular with teenage girls.

Similar to Instagram, users can upload content and use filters but this app does not currently have a ‘likes’ feature associated with it.

Importantly, in this app there is no way to set your settings to private.

Currently rated 12+ in the App Store, so younger users are common.

Users tend to then share the photo they create on apps such as Instagram under multiple VSCO style hashtags.

Remember:

Limit location sharing in settings.

Never put your full name on the account.

If sharing to other apps such as Instagram, be aware that this may highlight your use on the VSCO platform.

As with all other apps, be aware any content posted can’t be controlled and could be made public.

eBuddy

The application includes eBuddy chat and eBuddy XMS and is available across many platforms such as Android and Blackberry. The ability to chat simultaneously or instant message with friends is a positive feature as every message is run continuously so that you do not miss any messages. As the data is sent via the internet and not via SMS, it is free of charge to use and appealing to young people for that reason.

Twitter

Whilst Twitter is classed as a social media site, it has been used to send unpleasant messages, called tweets. With 58 million tweets sent daily and over 500 million users, nasty messages can quickly reach a mass audience causing distress to the person who receives such a message.

Helpful Tips:

  1. Keep privacy settings to private. This means you have total control over who follows you and therefore who can see and comment on your content.
  2. Never accept a request from an anonymous account or someone you don’t know.
  3. Always ensure your passwords are complex.
  4. Don’t leave yourself logged in from multiple devices. It increases the risk of someone else being able to access your account.
  5. Be careful about who you engage with over Direct Messaging (DMs). If you don’t know them then don’t reply. A lot of inappropriate content is sent via DMs including, for example, pornography or other explicit content. The best thing to do, is state in your profile if someone wants to chat to you they should put it on your page and not in your DMs.
  6. Think about your user name. What information does that give out about you? A date of birth, gender, or a location? All this data can be used to build up a profile on you. Best to keep personal information to an absolute minimum.
  7. Think about your content. It forms part of your digital footprint so ensure it is appropriate.
  8. If you receive any inappropriate comments or are subject to trolling – report it to Twitter via the platform. Likewise, if you see any inappropriate content anywhere else on the platform report that too. It is always better to be the Upstander rather than the Bystander.

Download our App Information Sheet

Tumblr

Founded in 2007, Tumblr is a social networking site where you can post text, links, pictures and music and offers similar options as other sites of this nature. Users write or post to what is called the Dashboard and it allows users to upload the usual items and as with other applications and social networking sites, Tumblr can be connected to their Facebook and Twitter accounts so posts can be viewed wherever you may be.

Among Us

Among us is an online multiplayer game produced by Innersloth. Initially released in 2018 it is an app growing in popularity right now amongst children and adults alike. It is free to download via the app store and involves players either being impostors or crew members who then play against each other.

It has received recent negative publicity because due to its popularity and the chat function used within the game it is possible for it to be abused and used to make inappropriate approaches to children.

With 41.9 million downloads in September 2020 this is a game that parents need to have an awareness of. As with everything the more aware we are of the risks attached the better informed we are to manage them.

Download it yourself if your children are using it so that you can assist them in making it a safer place for them to play.

Make use of the ‘censor chat’ function when your children are online. This means the game scans the message for inappropriate content. The box should go green when it is activated.

Show your child how to leave a game if they feel upset or concerned by anything they come across within it.

Ensure they know never to hand out personal details online.

Report any concerns you have.

ClubHouse

A new ‘members only’ social media app. It is an audio based app where you can drop in on other peoples conversations and join in. Once in, you can join ‘a room’ which is like listening to a live podcast on any given topic, and its possible to ask a question or join in with the discussion. Recordings aren’t allowed as it meant to be a safe space where discussions can be held.

The app is free to download via the app store and is currently iphone only. However, for access you need to be invited by someone already within it. When you join you then receive two invites to pass on and so it continues.

Unlike most apps, games and platforms, this isn’t one we can necessarily access ourselves due to the invite only nature of the platform.

As it raises in popularity, the very nature of the ‘invite only’ side of it can, and will, cause issues when only two can be chosen from a circle of friends. Anything of this nature can cause another to feel excluded and so its important parents are aware of how it works.

If you are concerned about any of the sites listed, which only represents a small proportion of what is available, visit https://www.saferinternet.org.uk which has information on parental control filtering and advice on blocking specific websites that you do not want your child to visit.

Another effective tip to control access to sites that you do not wish young people to visit, is to turn off your wireless router through the night when you are not able to keep an eye on what they could potentially be accessing via their PCs/Smart Phones/Tablets.  Whilst this may appear extreme, it is another way in which we can safeguard younger children.

When using Websites and Social Media Sites, it is important to always:

  • Ensure you are up to date with what your child is doing online. You cannot support them if you do not understand the issue.
  • Report trolls and those displaying bullying behaviour. On both your child’s account but also on any account you find them.
  • Online (cyber) bullying can take place across apps too. Comments written in group chats can be used to cause distress to another.
  • Keep personal details safe. As a general rule of thumb, if we wouldn’t post it on our front doors then it shouldn’t be posted online either.
  • Stay safe online by keeping up to date with your privacy settings. Ensure you have accounts locked down to friends only and make sure those contacts are people you trust.
  • Stay in control of who can see your posts and who you make friends with. If it is someone you don’t know, be careful, because it could be a false account where the user has lied about their identity. Trolls and bullies will try and gain information about you to use it against you.
  • Report people who leave inappropriate comments. Either on your account or on the account of another.
  • Utilise the block button against anyone making inappropriate comments about you.

For information on how privacy settings or how to block/remove a person from apps used by young people, take a look at our App Information Sheets

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Need to talk?

If you are being bullied or are concerned about someone who is, you can receive help and support from one of our trained Mentors through our e-mentoring service.

If you would like a Mentor to email you, please contact: mentorsonline@bulliesout.com

If you would rather speak to someone over the telephone, you can call Childline on: 0800 1111

For any community-related issues, such as anti-social behaviour, we would suggest contacting your landlord, the local police or your local environmental health department (where applicable), as we are unable to deal with these types of complaints.