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Safer Internet for Young People

A small guide on how to keep young people safe when online.

How might young people be at risk, as they spend more time online? 

There are many risks that young people are exposed to when they spend more time online, these being:  


Addiction (Gaming, Monitory, Screen time)  

  • This can raise issues later in life particularly with gambling addiction)  

Increased risk of grooming 

  • Many applications such as Snapchat, Instagram and TikTok all have a messaging service available which is end- to-end encrypted meaning that the messages are private between themselves and the individual or group, no one else can gain access to those messages. Instagram is the most used social media application to groom young people online. There are applications such as Omegle which has recently been removed but another has popped up in its place called Joingy whereby the slogan is 'Come, Meet and Chat to Strangers' this is simply where you can download the application or go to the website and turn your camera, text chat and microphone on and you are then randomly paired with someone across the world, this is unregulated and quite often this content is not what you would want to be seeing let along someone that you care for. There are applications out there which do the same and these are Joingy and Chat Roulette. Grooming in this instance is Radicalisation/Extremism, Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) and County Lines. 

Cyber Bullying and Stalking 

  • Applications such as snapchat allow for precise location to be known as and when that individual opens the application. Many young people do not always know everyone that they have on snapchat and may not know that they are actively sharing their location on snap maps. As well as this, snapchat was designed to be short 10 second photos that you send between friends however this again has been subject to indecent images over the years.  

WhatsApp Groups  

  • A new one is the groups that young people are a part of what can happen is those in a group can be individually targeted through those groups and be subjected to phone calls, video calls as well as messages. Again, this in unregulated and unfortunately content has been received by individuals that you would not want to be exposed to let alone a young person. 

Metaverse, AI (Artificial Intelligence) 

  • There is a significant amount of work developing around the metaverse and ai generated imagery. Essentially Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a form of doctoring an image to make it look very realistic, almost as if the individual were there and, in this situation, etc. This is being used as blackmail young people as images of them are being created and displayed and used in this way. As well as this, over the course of the next few years the metaverse will become a big issue as it is already showing the signs of that. This is where individuals will enter a world as 'themselves' with a headset on but be subject to activity that would be seen as illegal from other users. This is a particular issue as there is truly little to no law in this area yet, however the psychological and emotional wellbeing of that individual who has been subject to this is hugely affected. 


What things can parents look out for/be aware of?


There are many things that parents/carers can look out for, when it comes to grooming it is around knowing the physical, emotional, and verbal changes in a young person. Those drastic changes in emotions, speech can be vital to knowing whether a young person is being groomed online. As well as this, when it comes to the physical changes its around items of clothing, gifts they are receiving etc. It can be so important in the initial stages to notice those signs.  


When it comes to WhatsApp it is about making sure parents and carers know what groups the young person that they care for it apart of and generally if they are spending a significant amount of time on one application with an increased amount of messaging.  


Especially with gaming it is being aware of the concerns, voice changing applications are easily accessible, these enable individuals to manipulate their voice to sound completely different to what it is, they are very convincing and are used to manipulate someone into thinking they are someone completely different to who they say they are.  


Privacy online, ensuring that the young person that you care for has the highest possible restrictions on their social media accounts for instance an Instagram account being private rather than public, this adds an extra layer of security as users who know the Instagram handle cannot gain access to the photos that individual has uploaded, who they follow/following list, photos they have been tagged in, stories they have uploaded as well as messaging that account involving video and phone calls.  

What can young people look out for? 


Young people themselves can look out for a variety of concerns when online to be and feel safe. This includes:  

If anyone asks you to do or send something that makes you feel uncomfortable or anxious then do not give into peer pressure, have a conversation with a trusted adult who can help and support going forward.  

Any unsolicited messages on any social media accounts.  

Cyber bullying and hate speech on social media platforms, this is to be reported primarily to the social media account itself.  

The risk to future employment, not posting anything online that could be an issue later down the line, employers, universities, colleges, and internships will look at a prospective student's social media account to determine whether they are the right fit for the organisation. Social media plays a significant role today so ensuring this does not affect you when applying for higher education or a job is especially important.