We've been surveying young people about their online experiences and talking to PC Alan Earl about educating both young people and their parents about online safety.
Alan is currently seconded to the South West Grid for Learning as a Harm Reduction Officer and is keen to tackle all things cyber. We spoke to him to get his views and top-tips for parents on how to keep their children safe online.
Yes, absolutely. So far 82% of young people we have surveyed say they have more positive than negative experiences online. Social media and the internet in general are fantastic resources and present many fun and exciting learning and social opportunities for everyone, regardless of age. It is a great way for everyone to connect.
The challenge is to ensure a balance, so that the use of technology does not negatively impact on children's lives. It should be a fun and positive experience and if it's not - because of bullying on Facebook for example, then seek advice from sites like Beat Bullying, CEOP or Childnet. Or if they are compulsively checking updates, there are strategies that can be used to help manage how much time they spend online.
Pulling the plug on kids internet use or confiscating their smart phone may work for a while, but your child can access the web from all sorts of places and you won't have any idea who they are talking to or have any way of monitoring it. The best thing to do is talk to children, tell them your concerns and how they can keep themselves safe.
We need to keep in mind that sadly the world online is the same as the real world and there are risks we need to be aware of and take steps to minimise. Quite often the same kind of advice and rules that apply in the offline world will apply in the online world and, as always, prevention is better than cure!
We work with schools, parents and children themselves throughout the year to deliver online safety advice. Speak to your child's school and see if they are offering any sessions.
It isn't just children who need to be careful. Anyone who uses the internet either socially or for shopping, banking or other business uses needs to know how to protect themselves. There are lots of simple but effective things people can do to keep themselves safe online and there are lots of advice websites including our own, CEOPs and Action Fraud, to help people.
The most valuable thing a parent can do is talk to their child(ren) about the internet. Dialogue with your child will help you understand what sites they use and how they use them. This does not always mean you need to know everything, older children will need and expect a little privacy but, by continuing the conversation should know they can come to you for help without overreaction.
When you talk to your child, make it relaxed so they are happy to come to you if there is a problem and they don't hide things because they are scared or because they think you will stop them from using the internet altogether.
If something has made you or your child feel uncomfortable online, you can report the site or person online on the CEOP website