As a parent, it’s natural to worry about your child when they go off to uni or college. This is the time when many parents talk to their children about taking responsibility for themselves, not just as a student, but as an adult. One of the aspects you may not have considered is: will they know how to stay safe online?
Get Safe Online experts have put together some do's and don’ts of going online. Please take time to include these tips in your conversations with them before they head off this Autumn.
Looking after their money - If they haven’t already done so, your child will need to open a bank account that gives them what they need. Most banks have offers and freebies for students, but it’s equally important that they follow the bank’s security advice, including keeping their banking and other financial details private, and making money transfers safely via their bank’s app. Most unis and colleges have a Student Money Adviser they can talk to: suggest this if they need advice on any aspect of their finances.
Protect their reputation, and themselves - What goes online stays online including things your child might regret either immediately or in the future, like hurtful remarks, irresponsible dares, or photos that bring their uni into disrepute. 70%* of employers look at social media to screen candidates before hiring, so inappropriate posting could affect your child’s prospects. Intimate images sent or posted online can also fall into the wrong hands and be used to embarrass or extort. Location settings on phones and apps should be checked to help protect physical safety.
Identity and oversharing - The ability to provide identity is everything, and not just in the bar. Your child will need theirs to open or access their bank account, sign up for a railcard, student discount or other essentials. They should never reveal logins or other passwords and not overshare online, in texts or on the phone. Providing confidential information in return for freebies or to be entered in prize draws could lead to fraud or identity theft. Suggest they check their credit score regularly to make sure nobody has taken out credit or purchased anything in their (or your) name.
Digital Responsibility - Reinforce to your young student that there’s no place online for any kind of abuse, hate speech, forcing their views on others or criminal activity.
Online gambling - For some students away from home, betting can become a habit. Remind your child how much money and time they could be wasting and the positive things they could do with it. Point out the fine line between gaming and gambling.
Fraud awareness - Fake texts, emails, calls and posts claiming to be from the bank, student loan provider or HMRC are commonplace. Overseas students can also be targeted by visa fraudsters. Not thinking before they click – or oversharing confidential information – could cost your child their money, identity, or both.
Accommodation - If you child has found accommodation they like, help them check it out in person and that the advertiser is authentic before any money changes hands. Ideally, deposits and other up-front payments should be paid by credit card for extra protection.
Payments - Payment by bank transfer to an unknown person or company for accommodation deposits, fees or other costs or purchases should be avoided where possible. If it’s a fraud, there’s very little chance of getting a refund from the bank.
Online dating - It’s essential to use a reputable app and keep the conversation on the app’s messaging platform. Not everyone is who they claim to be … some even use online dating to commit fraud or endanger their date’s physical safety when they meet up. Tell them not to be afraid to block or say no.
No means no - Your child should never be put under pressure to do something they feel uncomfortable with, or put others under pressure. This includes sending or publishing intimate pics, harmful pranking, extreme content, hacking social media accounts or any kind of radicalisation.
Devices and Wi-Fi - Phones, tablets and laptops are essential to student life, so they should be treated like the precious possessions they are. If what your child is doing is confidential or financial, they should avoid using Wi-Fi hotspots as there’s no guarantee they’re secure. Warn your child about location services on apps too.
‘Get rich quick’ schemes - Students are favourite targets for illegal get rich quick schemes, like jobs with pay that’s too good to be true or others using their bank accounts to ‘process payments’ (launder money). Getting involved could result in prosecution and a criminal record, so your child should be wary if approached.
Keep coding legal - Students who are clever coders and extraordinary gamers are sometimes targeted by cybercriminals who need their skills for malware coding or hacking. Talk to your child about the consequences, and discuss alternatives like a career in cybersecurity.
Find comprehensive, easy-to-follow advice about online safety at www.getsafeonline.org
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