Cybersafety and young people

Cybersafety and young people

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

There are countless media stories about the perils of young people being online. Ironically, a lot of these stories are good ‘clickbait’ and give a false sense of what they are actually doing online.

Young people are online earlier these days communicating through many different devices. Even if you don’t live in a ‘connected’ household, they could be accessing the internet with friends or elsewhere.

The pitfalls and benefits of being online

Being online offers access to research, information and entertainment. It also provides communication opportunities for young people.

No matter how tech-savvy young people are, they may not be aware of some of the pitfalls of certain types of online behaviour. They also may not absorb the consequences of different activities.

Checking in with what they have been doing online in a casual way on a regular basis, can keep you up-to-date. It can also reassure them they can come to you if, or when, they come across something that makes them uncomfortable.

Start having these conversations as early as you can and keep having them. You don’t need to know every detail, but enough to keep up-to-date and know if something has changed.

We all know the “do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t work. So, do you scroll aimlessly through your phone?

How to support your young person's online safety

Here are some more things to consider to support your young person’s online safety.

‘Model’ good behaviour

Parents and guardians sometimes have more influence by their own actions.

Do you take endless photos/videos/selfies? Are you on the phone during mealtimes?

Do you have a laptop/tablet going while watching TV? It can be very tricky to instil moderate use of the internet rules if you are always connected yourself.

Set boundaries

A lot of young people like having defined boundaries. It can be helpful for them to push against and work out how to apply their own and where their comfort levels are at.

Involve young people in deciding where the boundaries are along with the consequences for when they are crossed. This way what you develop are realistic. See screen time and young people for more.

Be aware of access to smart devices

Do you know which devices can access the internet at home?

Make sure you know what provides internet access. Parents are not always aware that young people are online using decommissioned iPhones and some gaming consoles.

Discuss sharing images and videos on social media

Depending on what age the young people in your life are, they may have activity online you can follow. This will change as they get older. There will be activity you never see as it’s in private through the likes of WhatsApp or Facebook messenger.

There are also many different nanny or parental controls for online use. By the time a child becomes a teenager, these are more or less redundant. So open communication and building trust with your young person instead is crucial.

Talk to young people about what they share online and through social media. Reinforce that nothing shared through electronic communication is really private. Once it’s shared, it no longer belongs to you and you cannot control who sees it.

It’s not practical to tell anyone to read most of the terms and conditions that most social media or devices have. But it is important to understand the privacy controls on each platform.

Talk to young people about sexting

Sexting has become a fairly common way for young people to express their sexuality. Unfortunately, it is happening with younger and younger people. This can be very alarming to discover so parents and guardians need to talk about this as early as possible.

Young people can feel pressurised into sharing intimate images because they want to be liked and accepted. Some young people will be more vulnerable to this type of activity. Ensure young people in your life are aware of the potential spread of imagery or video. Once any image, intimate or otherwise, is online it no longer belongs to us. We cannot control where it goes or who views it.

Encouraging healthy self-esteem in young people means they can learn to trust their gut. It also prevents them from engaging in anything that makes them feel uncomfortable.

Ask the young person in your life who they're in contact with online as early as you can. Keep this channel of communication open between you as this will change.

When intimate images are shared

If a young person comes to you about intimate images or video of them online, notify the website hosting the material immediately. This could be very stressful for a young person and they may have taken a bit of time before they told you. So while you need to remain calm and support them, it’s time to act with urgency.

Check for a complaint button or facility to notify them if it’s a social network. If it’s a website site contact the publisher/management of the site. Be very clear this content is a breach of the owner’s privacy. If the young person is under 18 years-old, websites and networks can be charged by law. The law is a little slower about consent and over 18s with this type of content but it is catching up.

If the young person knows who shared it in the first place, contact them directly. Demand a list of everyone/or site they have sent these to.

Take screenshots of what’s online without the young person’s consent. Do the same with your complaints and requests of sites and individuals for a record. in case you need to bring this to the guards.

User data and privacy

There have been so many scandals about use of user data and privacy in the last year or two. So, we’re all more mindful about our privacy online, right? As mentioned before it’s not practical to read all the terms and conditions of everything we use. Social networks and tech companies rely on that fact.

Our data is frequently shared beyond the sites we are actually on. When we’re logged into a browser or an app data is stored about other links that we follow. This data for advertisers to target users with specific ads.

Make sure the young people in your life are aware of their privacy controls. Ensure they have them locked down in the networks or devices they use. Develop habits of logging out of accounts

This goes for all. It may be difficult to win arguments about sharing and posting content if you broadcast pictures of the family online.



In general, cyberbullying tends to be a tool used as part of what we recognise as traditional bullying.

There are obvious cases such as putting someone down and name-calling. Encourage young people to block and report offensive or abusive comments online. Not only when they are on the receiving end of it, but also when they witness it happening to others.

There are also less obvious methods of bullying online. Young people can experience feelings of isolation or being left out when they see posts from friends’ or peers’ events they were not told about.

These feelings can be really damaging for a young person. Let your young person know that they can talk to you about these situations. Avoid using ‘real-life’ vs ‘online’ terminology that might diminish how they’re feeling.

The online world is very real for young people and where they live everyday. Knowing about what they’re doing and communicating about it helps you stay informed.


Person engaging in online bullying on their phone

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