Online safety tips

Young people have now grown up with the internet. It’s a part of their everyday lives. As a parent or guardian, you want your son or daughter to be safe when they are online.
ReachOut Parents Youth Mental Health
No matter how tech-savvy young people are, they may not be aware of some of the pitfalls of certain types of online behaviour or fully absorb the consequences.

The amount of personal information people can put online can actually put them at risk, attracting unwanted attention, spam or even cyberbullying.

Posting photos and videos

Young people should be made aware of how careful they need to be with pictures or videos they post online of themselves or others.

Once something is on the internet, even if it is deleted, it can be found and copied. The consequences of this can go from slightly embarrassing, to potentially damaging or dangerous.

Young people can feel under pressure and are vulnerable to encouragement to post or send inappropriate or sexual imagery.

Make sure your son or daughter is confident enough to trust their own feelings. Having a strong self-esteem is something that helps young people from engaging in any behaviour they’re not comfortable with.

It is possible to block and report people or offensive behaviour on social networking sites. So, it’s a good idea for you as a parent, or guardian, to know how different social networks and apps work.

Internet scams

The internet can be a breeding ground for con artists, using the cloak of anonymity to their full advantage.

Younger people are more trusting and may not be aware of the many Nigerian princes needing to deposit money to their account, or the Spanish Lotteries they’ve won without having entered.

It goes for all: if it sounds too good to be true, it is.

Online grooming

The internet can unfortunately can be a place where older people forge emotional connections with younger people to exploit them for sexual reasons. Do note these cases are generally the exception to the rule and are relatively uncommon.

However, it happens and young people need to be aware not everyone is who they say they are online. Encourage them to talk to you about the friends they make on any of the platforms they’re on regularly.


Abusive or offensive comments, videos, images or posts online. Read more about cyberbullying.

Do be aware that in cases of cyberbullying, bullying in the traditional sense, is generally being experienced also.


People deliberately starting arguments, or aiming to upset others online. The term trolling is used in the media about cases of online harassment.

As with cyberbullying, what one person finds offensive or inflammatory, may not be the same to another.

Certain platforms can have a certain dynamic, where trolling can be part of the culture. Talk to young people about these type of sites and what goes on, giving them a chance to think aloud about some behaviour they might have witnessed.

Sleep hygiene

Most of us know the damage too much screen time late into the night can do to our sleep.

It’s a good habit for the whole family to switch off phones, laptops, TVs and games consoles a good hour or two before bedtime.

Some guidelines for online use

Never send out bank details.

Subscriptions to text services or competitions can seem free at first but end up using all phone credit.

People can follow someone’s movements if they blog or post statuses about their whereabouts or use location networks. Information like this and when your family is away can be used in ways like breaking into your house.

Talk to your son or daughter about this and if they use these location features and networks. The message to get across is for them to be really careful about giving out any personal information.

What to tell young people about staying safe online

  • Avoid giving out personal details
    Use nicknames on forums and other sites where possible. Avoid giving out credit card details, full names, addresses or phone numbers. When using a credit card online make sure it’s a secure site. If someone is pressuring you to give you these details, ask why they need them.
  • Meet up in a group
    If your son or daughter decides to meet up with people they met online, make sure they arrange to do it somewhere public with lots of people. Take a couple of friends with you, or make sure there’s a group of friends nearby if you need them. Meeting in places like the park where there mightn’t be anyone around can be dangerous.
  • Avoid chatting with people who make sexual references
    You never really know who you’re talking to online. Young people can be very trusting and not realise people are not who they seem. If someone has been saying sexual or inappropriate things to your son or daughter, tell them to stop all contact. Trap the details you can and if your son or daughter is under 18 years-old you may need to contact the Gardaí.
  • Manage your account and app settings
    All social media platforms have ways to ensure privacy and restrict access to people. Make sure your son or daughter familiarises themselves with the account management section in any site, game, forum or network they use. Settings change on sites, so check them every so often.

Starting a blog or website

Plenty of young people have blogs or websites they use to express themselves, which can be a fantastic outlet.

Many young people now are developing very strong followings online, developing their digital persona, which then encourages other young people to do the same.

Giving away too much personal information can put them at risk.

Encourage them to:

  • use a pseudonym/nickname
  • avoid mentioning the name of your school/workplace
  • don’t be too specific with where you live, especially if it’s a small town
  • alert you when something happens they’re not comfortable with.


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