CHILD ONLINE SAFETY

Staying safe online is everyone’s responsibility. There are many ways that  children and young people can stay safe online. Childline Zimbabwe has been running a campaign to promote child online safety called SAFEPATHS. And here are some tips on staying safe online.

Have someone that you can talk to about your online activities

Always have a trusted adult in your life that you are comfortable talking to about your online activities, whether good or bad. At any point that you feel something must be wrong with your online interaction, there probably is something wrong. At this point, you need to talk to that trusted adult and ask about the safety of the online interaction you are having. Because adults have a little more experience of life and are a bit more mature, they may be able to see things differently and advise you on the safety of the interaction.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t true

There is an old saying that if an offer or conversation sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t true. This is correct for online scams, fraud and predatory activities. Online scammers and predators take advantage of children’s innocence, trusting nature and material needs. To get children interested, they make offers that sound so attractive and irresistible. Such attractive offers should raise your suspicion that this is too good to be true and that there must be a catch somewhere. When it sounds too good to be true, again reach out to a trusted adult for advice before you go in too deep into commitments online.

Set rules for internet use and follow them

Just as we have learnt to set rules about many other things in our lives, as children, we can also set rules about our use of the internet. Such rules can include how much time you should spent online; what type of personal information you can or cannot give out online; which internet platforms can you visit among others. These rules are important for self-control and one should have the self-discipline to follow them. Without rules, a child is more vulnerable to many of the online dangers discussed above. The online rules can also be set with assistance or guidance from adults.

Be careful of meeting online friends in real life

While the internet is a nice place for meeting and making new friends, some of these ‘new’ friends are not exactly what they pretend to be online. Some use fake profiles, pretending to be much younger and loving when in reality they may be much older, may be sex predators or  have ideas to harm you. So when your online friend requests to now meet you face-to-face, you should be careful for your safety. While meeting up may be fun, it may also be very dangerous.. It is advisable to first consult your trusted adult about this. Should you decide to meet, it is advisable to meet during the day and in a public place where there are other people around, which may make it difficult for something bad to be done to you. It may also be advisable to be accompanied by someone else for the meeting, and always tell someone about the details of the meeting.

Do not give out too much personal information online

It is usually a bad idea to post personal information online such as your actual names, phone numbers and addresses among others. If criminals gain access to this information, they can use it to harm you or your family. It is even worse to share photos and videos of yourselves, especially private ones as these may further be shared with others you may not have intended to see them. Some of these private photos or videos may also be used to bully you or to force you to do things you would not want to do, otherwise they would post them online. Do think twice before you publish or share anything online. You should only post something online if you are comfortable with everyone in the world seeing it and it should be something which would not reflect badly on you if it were to come up in future when you are now an adult.

If your online interactions become of a sexual nature, be very worried

Always be worried if someone, especially a stranger, wants to talk to you about sex. Remember that you can never be sure of the true identity or the intentions of that person. You should always tell your trusted adult if someone is talking to you about sex issues online. The adult can help you to report it since this may also be a crime. If you have been tricked by someone into engaging in sexual activities or giving them your private sexual images online, it’s not the end of the world. You should always tell your trusted adult in order to receive advice and help. No adult (or even a child) has a right to request things of a sexual nature from a child.

Take care of your privacy

Whether you are using a social networking site or any other online service, always take care of your privacy and that of your family and friends. The more you visit too many sites online, the easier it becomes to have your private information and that of your family known. If you join a social networking site, use the privacy settings to protect your online profile so that only your friends can see it. Wherever possible, instead of your real name, you should use a nickname that your real friends will be able to recognize. Some sites often also provide privacy tools. Use them.

Treat others online the same way you would want to be treated as well

The people that you interact with online are human beings with feelings just like you. Treat them with respect, the same way you would want to be respected. Respect other people’s views, even if you don’t agree with them, and disagree respectfully without being rude to others. Always know that when you have been disrespectful or when you have bullied someone online, while you may not see them cry, in their personal space they are hurt and in some cases, their hurt may result in serious consequences such as suicide. Being rude or disrespectful online may also lead to those you hurt wanting to revenge on you, resulting in revenge bullying online and in real life. You have rights which other people should respect and likewise you should respect others rights.

You logged onto the website on your own, you can also log out

Under no circumstances should you feel that you cannot leave a conversation or interaction online. If you see something online that makes you feel uncomfortable, unsafe or worried, you can leave the website, turn off your computer if you want to, just the same way you logged in. If you are talking to someone online and they make you uncomfortable, remember you don’t have to talk back to them. In fact, you can block them. You have control over your activities online and do not allow anyone online to make you feel that you do not have control and they have.  And when you are feeling unsafe like that online, you can also tell your trusted adult immediately, who can assist you with advice on how to remain safe online.

Get more information :

Call Childline Zimbabwe on freephone 116 or message on WhatsApp at 0716 116 116 or 0732 116 116 for advice or report any form of harassment, abuse, exploitation or any other inappropriate or upsetting conduct that has happened or is happening online. You can also email Childline Zimbabwe on their website http://www.childline.org.zw

Report child online sexual videos for takedown on http://report.iwf.org.uk/zw

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