Child using the internet on a mobile phone

Safer Internet Day has inspired My Family, Our Needs to put together some top tips for you and your child to stay safe whilst surfing the net. These days, everybody’s on it and why not? It’s a really useful tool, a way to make friends and communicate with people, educational and fun. It breaks down barriers and creates opportunities and connections.

However, it’s important to remember that the internet is a whole new world, and for that reason, you need to be vigilant online and protect yourself, your children and your computer.

You can share this article with your child, or just inform yourself so that you can have a chat with them when the time comes and they start to use the internet a little more independently.


It is important that you have the right level of internet safety for your needs, depending on who is using the internet. Computer viruses are a small piece of software that can infect your computer like a virus infects your body. You should look at anti-virus software to identify any potential viruses that can cause harm to your computer and offer you protection. There are free anti-virus programmes available online, but it is important to do some research and ask advice. The BBC WebWise site gives basic guidance on how to protect your computer against viruses and recommends a variety of free anti-viral software.

As well as infecting your computer, there are programmes which can steal your personal data, such as log-ins, passwords or even bank details. It’s important to have up-to-date software to protect you against all these things. Also, make sure you check the security of a website if you’re buying something. Secure websites usually have a padlock symbol in the URL bar or at the bottom of the browser. Also, secure web addresses usually start with ‘https://’ the ‘s’ means it’s secure. The Get Safe Online website as a lot of useful information on staying safe online, including when shopping and banking.

Parental locks

If you’re worried about your child using the internet without supervision, filters and locks can be set up on computers, tablets, phones and internet browsers to limit the types of websites that can be accessed, or for how long the computer can be used. They can also let you know the websites that are being accessed, including blocked websites. The BBC’s WebWise site has a lot of useful information about surfing the internet safely.


Passwords are a great way of protecting your information. Most websites that store any of your personal information will need a password, these include your email, your social media accounts or your online banking.

Although it can be difficult to remember a number of different passwords, it’s important that you don’t always use the same one and that they aren’t straightforward. Is it recommended that they should contain random numbers, letters, capitals and symbols. This can make them difficult to remember. There are some apps and programmes which manage your passwords for you; however, check how secure the programme is before saving your information to it.

Common passwords that are not very secure include ‘abcdef’, ‘123456’ and ‘password’. These are easy to figure out and then someone can access your private information. Some websites will tell you how ‘strong’ your password is when you set it for the first time. If you use a shared computer, never save your passwords and log in details as you don’t know who else may be able to access them from that computer.

Don’t share too much

It is important to protect your computer when you are online, but protecting yourself is equally as important. You may communicate with new people, talk and share ideas and, yes, you may even use it for dating. Even parents, shock horror! But stay safe and never give out too much personal information. Although you may be getting to know people, the internet is a way of hiding who you are or being someone else. That’s not to say that everyone is pretending to be someone else, but it’s important to keep that in mind.

Don’t ever give out personal information, such as where you live, your phone number, your personal email address. Certainly don’t share bank information, personal photographs or anything else you wouldn’t want to share with a stranger you’ve met in the street.

Internet chat and social networking can be useful ways to make friends, but always be aware not to share too much. Make sure any young people in your house know this too, as they are bound to spend a lot of their time on social networks.

SMART rules

Childnet International has developed five key SMART rules to staying safe online. Although aimed at children, everyone can learn something from being SMART online.

Safe – Keep safe by being careful not to give out personal information when you’re chatting or posting online. Personal information includes your email address, phone number and password.

Meeting – Meeting someone you have only been in touch with online can be dangerous. Only do so with your parents’ or carers’ permission and even then only when they can be present. Remember online friends are still strangers even if you have been talking to them for a long time.

Accepting – Accepting emails, direct messages, or opening files, pictures or texts from people you don’t know or trust can lead to problems – they may contain viruses or nasty messages.

Reliable – Someone online might lie about who they are and information on the internet may not be true. Always check information with other websites, books or someone who knows. If you like chatting online, it’s best to only chat to your real world friends and family.

Tell – Tell your parent, carer or a trusted adult if someone or something makes you feel uncomfortable or worried, or if you or someone you know is being bullied online.

Useful links and related articles

Staying safe and savvy online

Specialist information about internet safety for young people with SEN

Learning Disabilities, Autism and Internet Safety is a guide produced by Cerebra, Mencap and Ambitious about Autism. It aims to help parents limit the risk of their child having negative experiences online and understand what action can be taken if they do. Although it is aimed at parents, it contains a lot of useful information and suggests resources that will help young people to get the most out of the internet at home and in the community. The comprehensive guide gives advice on how to make both home and mobile internet safe and how to prepare your child to use the internet. It identifies a range of potential risks and gives advice on how to prevent/deal with them as well as suggesting how to safely explore the many benefits using the internet can give.

To find out more about Safer Internet Day, follow the hashtags #SID2017 and #SaferInternetDay on Twitter.