Detective Chief Inspector Anne Marks said: “No one would disagree the internet is an effective tool that has become part of our daily routine and has helped all of us to learn. However it can also pose a danger, particularly where young children and young people are concerned. There are many ways young people can be contacted and exploited online and parents need to familiarise themselves with what their young children are doing online and what apps they may be using.
“Sadly there are many people who will exploit young people and it is not always easy to keep children safe online, especially when so many of them have access to smartphones, laptops, gaming consoles and other devices today. All of this means the threat to online safety and cyber security is greater than ever, so parents need to be aware what their children are doing online.
“The protection and wellbeing of children and young people in Northern Ireland is a key priority for the Police Service and I want to appeal to parents today to talk to their children, know what their online presence is and what their interests are. Make yourself familiar with what Apps/websites they’re using and what access they have to messages being received via their phones/tablets or computer game consoles. Ensure your child knows how to keep information private and block someone bullying them or pestering them? Make sure they are aware of the reporting functions.
“It’s also important to ask your child what apps/sites they like and what their friends are using and have a discussion about what they think is best and also what you think is best - discuss and listen carefully to what they’re saying - make them feel like they are part of the discussion and decision-making process.
“Parents need to become net savvy. You don’t have to be an expert to have a handle on your child’s online world. There are many websites that offer practical straightforward advice how to keep your child safe online so please use them.
Detective Chief Inspector Marks added: “I would also ask parents to encourage their child to talk to them if someone has made them feel uncomfortable or unsafe online and report this to police. Talk to them and make sure they are aware that if they receive any inappropriate images or links, it is important that they do not forward it to anyone else. Contact police or tell a trusted adult immediately. Police can be contacted on 101 or for help and advice ring Childline on 0800 1111 or Lifeline on 0808 808 8000.
Talk to your child – have a conversation about how to stay safe online:
- Does your child know how to block someone bullying them, giving them a hard time, or pestering them?
- Do they know how to keep their information online private?
- Do they know where the reporting functions are?
- Make sure your children know what they are sharing online is just the same as having a conversation with a person face to face.
Tips to stay safe online
- Never share personal information or images with people you don’t know.
- Never post anything online, or send via private messages of images or information that you wouldn’t want the public to see - particularly nude or nearly nude images or videos. It may seem like a bit of fun with friends at the time but there is always a chance those images could be shared or get into the wrong hands and could lead to harmful situations such as stalking, abuse or blackmail.
- Never accept friend requests with someone you don’t know – they may not be who they say they are – if you don’t know them and have neve met them in real life don’t accept their request.
- Set privacy settings on all devices so that only people you know can view your account.
- If someone makes an offer to you online that seems too good to be true – it is usually just that and someone with an ulterior motive looking to exploit you.
Help is at hand for parents/guardians who are worried – there are various websites to provide advice:
- Internet Safety: https://www.psni.police.uk/
Talking to children about staying safe online: https://www.thinkuknow.co.uk/parents/