• Cyber safety tips that can help both kids and adults
  • A teacher shares some of the advice from his lessons
  • Staying safe online – whatever device you’re using

Recent online incidents involving Yahoo and the US Election have made it abundantly clear that cyber attacks can be a significant threat to anyone. [2,3]

And with the dozens of ways we can get online nowadays, there are more and more potential openings for fraudsters and cyber criminals to exploit.

Thankfully, there’s a new generation of clued-up cyber experts coming through our schools and colleges who can see a cyber scam coming a mile off. And global events like Safer Internet Day raise awareness of the importance of cyber safety – whether you’re 15 years old or in your 50s.

Here are some of the top tips from kids, and one of the cyber safety experts teaching them, to help you stay secure online on Safer Internet Day.

1. Be careful when you disclose your personal information

Kid’s view: Ella, age 9: 'Don't put your phone number or email details into forms online unless you're sure the website is safe.'

Teacher’s view: 'Email addresses (and indeed usernames) often include a person's full name and year of birth,' says Daniel Greene, Year 4 Class Teacher and Computing Curriculum Coordinator, London. ‘People should be encouraged to use more random names to prevent this personal information being publicly disseminated.’

Key takeaway for parents and grandparents: There are some scams, such as phishing and premium rate text scams, that only need your basic details in order to take money from your accounts. Premium rate text scams, for example, use just your phone number to send you messages that charge your mobile account.[4] You can find more information about tackling cybercrime on our fighting financial crime page.

The best way to recognise a secure website is by checking if the URL starts with 'https'. The extra 's' on the end of the usual 'http' stands for 'secure', and it should also be accompanied by a little padlock symbol to the right of the search bar.

2. Make sure you adjust your privacy settings

Kid's view: Charlie, age 15: 'On Instagram and Facebook, people you don't know can see everything you post unless you privatise your account.'

Teacher's view: 'The average person has approximately 150 Facebook friends,' says Daniel. 'This means that even if you set your Facebook privacy settings to allow only friends of friends to see your profile, it’s still open to around 22,500 people.'

'Many people’s Facebook profiles include photos and opinions that they don't necessarily want employers, colleagues or even neighbours to see. They also often include pictures of their children in easily identifiable locations. It's easy to use Facebook's privacy settings to manage who can see each individual photograph or post,' he continues.

Key takeaway for parents and grandparents: Update your privacy options to the settings that suit your needs, and make sure you read the privacy settings on any service you sign up to – especially social media platforms. On Instagram, for example, it's harder to keep your photos private, even if you have a private profile. Instagram's own privacy settings say:

'If someone with a private profile shares a photo or video to a social network (like Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare and so on) using Instagram, the image will be visible on that network and the permalink will be active. In other words, the photo will be publicly accessible by anyone who has access to its direct link/URL.' [5]

3. Stay secure on all your devices

Kid's view: Nathan, age 10: 'Don't trust strangers on Xbox games like Minecraft, where you can get in contact with other people playing the game. Never give them any details about yourself.'

Teacher's view: 'Many parents are unaware of the number of games that allow or encourage their children to talk to strangers online,’ says Daniel. 'Whether you're a child or an adult, make sure you don’t share any personal information while playing these games.'

'For any parent, it's important to keep an open line of communication,' he advises. 'Remember, if a child believes that they'll suffer a negative consequence from telling an adult about an inappropriate question, they're less likely to share that information with you.'

'For people of any age, the key information to keep private is your full name and any part of your address, as these allow people to find you in the offline world, or even use your details to answer security questions online.'

Key takeaway for parents and grandparents: These days, you can go online from your desktop or your mobile, from your TV or your games console – even from your car. To stay secure, both adults and children need to observe the same rules on every device when it comes to internet security.

4. Check your photos before sharing them online

Kid's view: Lucy, age 15: 'In certain apps, location settings are often automatically on, so you have to make sure you turn them off, otherwise people can find out exactly where you are when you post.'

Teacher's view: 'Many Instagram photos have a location embedded in them. This allows anyone viewing them to work out exactly where you are at the time you post the image,' explains Daniel. 'If you post the image from your home, this shares your address with anyone viewing your photo. If a vulnerable person posts from a public place, then it may place them at risk.'

Key takeaway for parents and grandparents: This is especially true when you're on holiday – a tagged photo from your trip abroad, uploaded on the hotel's patchy WiFi, is an advert to potential burglars. Wait until you’re back from holiday before publishing your photos, that way you’ll avoid a potential claim on your home insurance if you’re the victim of a break-in. When you’re sharing any photo, make sure it doesn’t give away too much information about yourself – including where you are.

Although schools are focused on educating children about how to stay safe online, the lessons being taught are just as relevant to adults. If you're concerned about the amount of information you're sharing online – or, in fact, if you haven't given it much thought at all – request a little expert teaching from the real buffs: your kids [and maybe even their kids!]


  1. http://www.classthink.com/2015/03/17/everything-you-need-to-know-about-ofsted-and-esafety/
  2. http://www.bnn.ca/yahoo-uncovers-another-cyber-attack-1-billion-accounts-compromised-1.632041
  3. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/dec/16/obama-retaliation-russia-hacking-us-election
  4. http://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/advice/im-being-charged-for-unwanted-premium-rate-text-messages
  5. https://www.facebook.com/help/instagram/442837725762581?helpref=hc_fnav