Hidden Hazards jellyfish

You might feel safe while you are on the Internet, but there are lots of things you need to be aware of and be protected from.


– Do you really know whether a friend you meet on social media or in a chat room is a 15 year old boy from America, or a 51 year old man from China?

The Internet allows you to chat or message friends, family and other children living around the world through social networks or online gaming sites etc. This helps you build and maintain friendships, learn about different cultures and traditions and keep in touch regularly. This can also help build your communication and social skills. However, there are many things that you need to be aware of and be protected from, while chatting online.

Even if you have been chatting to the same person for ages and you feel like you know them well, remember that there is no way of knowing if someone is telling the truth. Even if they have showed you a photo of themselves, it could be a photo of someone else. This also applies to webcam or video footage too; seeing a video of that person does not mean it’s them you are really talking to.

When talking to people online:

  • Always be aware that they could be pretending to be someone else.
  • Think carefully about the information you share online because you never know what the other person is going to do with it.
  • Don’t turn on your webcam if it’s a stranger - you can never be sure who is watching from the other end.
  • Don’t respond to inappropriate requests and make sure you don’t feel pressured to do things you don’t want to.
  • Never make plans to meet up, no matter how well you think you know an online friend.
  • If anything makes you uncomfortable, don't hesitate to talk to a trusted adult because even if you might know more about the online world, adults have life experience that can help
  • Don’t forget that you can always delete a social media contact or ‘Facebook friend’ if you don’t wish to talk to them anymore. Make sure you also know how to block Instant Messaging contacts. They will not be told you have blocked them; you will just appear offline in their contacts list, so they cannot message you.
  • Think before you answer private messages. It can be harder to end a conversation in a private chat than in a public chat. A private chat may end up being more personal than you like.
  • Learn how to keep/save a copy of the conversation in chat – this may be useful if you want to report something.


– Can you really be sure that your computer has not been infected with a virus that spreads or corrupts your data?

A virus is a small program or code that can copy itself and often corrupt a computer system including deleting files or destroying data. Viruses can even take over your computer, and it can be disguised as emails, links, attachment of funny images, greeting cards, audio or video files. When you download anything (from a website or an email), or even visit a website, you risk a virus or spyware being downloaded on to your computer. Once a virus is downloaded, the person who put it there can read information on your computer, see what websites you are visiting and even log the keys you press to obtain your passwords. Viruses can also spread themselves to other computers or erase everything on your hard disk.

To help protect against viruses:

  • Don't visit unsafe websites or click on links that you are sent in spam (in email, IM, posted on your wall, etc) that are from somebody that you don't know or don't trust. We all receive spam – something that comes straight to your email address, trying to sell things like medicine, offer us loans or even show us inappropriate photos. Spam may contain a virus, it may try to trick us out of money, or try and threaten us to do something we don’t want to do. Whatever it says in the message, do not download, open the attachment or click the link – just delete it!
  • Be careful when sharing files (information, music, videos) or downloading from peer to peer sites, as you never know the content of the file you have downloaded. It may contain images you wouldn’t want to see, and you could also be downloading viruses which gives others access to your personal files.
  • Make sure you have anti-virus software and update it regularly.


– Would you know if someone was stealing information from your computer?

Fraud is when people deliberately misrepresent, destroy, steal information, or cause harm to others by accessing information online, through deceptive and illegal means. Online fraud includes both financial fraud and identity theft, and ranges from:

  • “phishing” emails that pretend to be from official places (such as banks) that ask for personal information (account or credit card details etc), which can be used to commit identity theft
  • online auction sites where fictional goods are sold
  • spyware to gather information about people
  • sending computer viruses that attack computers to access personal information using
  • hacking into someone’s computer to access their personal information

Once your computer has been hacked or a virus has been downloaded, criminals can have access to your personal information and they can clone your parent’s bankcards and use them to withdraw cash, use the details to make online purchases of games etc and also to transfer money from peoples accounts.

Just like you have to be careful and lock your doors at home, you also need to be careful of the many examples of fraud that will make their way onto your computers when you are online.

To help protect yourself from fraud:

  • only make online purchases from sites you trust, such as pay-pal
  • don't share yours, or your parents, personal information with anyone. This includes your full name, address, phone number, credit card number or ID card number.
  • don’t share photos of anything with identifying information (new driver’s license, passport or ID card, first credit card, etc.)
  • don’t open messages from strangers or download attachments from people you don’t know.
  • install antivirus software and spam blocking programs.


– Are you taking steps to protect your computer from hackers, who can spy on you?

Hacking is when someone uses your computer to get unauthorized access to your information and it can be done through your emails or social media accounts as well. If someone hacks your computer, they can see everything you type, including passwords, emails and your private data. It can be really annoying and also upsetting to have any of your accounts hacked. If your account has already been hacked, go into your account and change the password immediately. If you have been locked out of your account, contact the hosts of the website to ask for either, the account to be opened to you or deleted completely. Be aware that a friend of a friend could be an identity thief or a hacker.

To help protect yourself from hacking:

  • Treat your password like your toothbrush don’t share it with anyone and change it often. Always remember to logoff when you have finished with an online service.
  • Create a strong password that cannot easily be guessed, using numbers and capital letters.
  • Keep your passwords private, even from your friends, as this reduces the risk of others getting hold of it.
  • Use different passwords, or at least vary them slightly for each different account. This means that if someone does get hold of your password, they can't then get into lots of your different accounts.