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4. Staying safe, online contact

1. Tell your parents

You must tell your parents if you are using direct message services - for example many online games allow players to chat directly with one another without other players seeing the conversation. Social media services also allow direct, private messaging.

Your parents only want to keep you safe and to do this they need to know what you are doing and what you are using.

Decide on some rules together about what you should and shouldn't be doing.

2. Use a nickname

When you log into a game, forum or chatroom you should always make sure to use a nick name or alias, something which can’t easily be used to identify you. 

You can tell your real friends your nickname so they know who to look out for when they join the service but it helps keep your real life identity safe from anyone else around.

3. Never give out personal details

This means no telling people your real name, even just your first name.  If there is someone unsavoury in the service, they can start to use your name to gain your trust.

You also shouldn’t tell anyone your age or even if you are a girl or boy. That might sound a bit odd, but if there is an adult in the service who is trying to target young girls or boys, you are giving them the information they need.

Other information that you absolutely mustn’t give out are any details about where you live, you shouldn’t be telling people your actual address or even which town you’re from as that gives them the chance to say they live near you and try to gain your trust. 

You also shouldn’t tell them which school you go to.  It wouldn’t take a genius to track down a school.  They only need a bit more information about you gleaned from your conversations in your messages for them to be able to identify you at school.

No matter what reasons or excuses people give, don’t ever tell them your phone number.  They might make out that they really like you and they want to chat to you in person.  Don’t be fooled, keep your phone number a secret.

Keep your email address a secret.  You might think that it can’t do any harm to let someone have your email.  But they might start sending you pictures that make you feel scared or uncomfortable.  They could even send you a computer virus in the email.

4. Don't send your picture to anyone

Never ever send anyone your picture that you have not already met in real life and are happy with.  It doesn’t matter how much they ask or promise to send you one in return, don’t let them see what you look like. 

5. Don't open attachments from anyone

This shouldn't be a problem because you won't give anyone your email address, will you? But, if for some reason you did give it out and you find someone is sending you emails with mean or rude pictures, don't open them and tell your parents immediately.

6. Stay in the public areas

Always stay in the public area of the service.  If someone you don’t know suggests going into a private messaging area so you can talk in private, don’t agree.  The public areas have other people in them.  They might notice if there is something wrong or off.  If you are in a private messaging section alone with someone, there is no one to help you out.

Even if you are in the public areas and someone says anything which makes you feel uncomfortable, don't respond back. Log off and tell your parents.

7. Don't meet up in real life on your own

Don’t ever agree to meet someone in real life that you have met online without first discussing it with your parents.  If you do ever decide to meet someone, make sure that it is in a public place and make sure that your parents go with you.  If someone suggests that you go alone, it should set alarm bells ringing. 

Make sure that you follow all of these rules and you should be able to enjoy using online service and stay safe in them.