Website of the UK government

Please note that this website has a UK government accesskeys system.

Public services all in one place

Main menu

Staying safe online

It's important to know how to stay safe when you're using the internet. You should never give out any personal information when you're online, no matter who you think you're talking to.

Using the internet

There are lots of sites around that allow you to talk to other people on the web. Chat rooms give you the chance to have a conversation with other people and get instant replies. Online message boards and forums let you post questions or comments and ask other users to give their opinion in their own time.

It can be a great way to chat to other people who share your interests, but you should always be careful not to pass on any of your personal details. You should always keep in mind that internet users can pretend to be anyone they like. They can lie about their age, their interests and whether they're male or female. No matter how long you've been chatting, remember that they're still strangers; you don't really know them at all.

Social networking sites

Some of you may have your own Bebo account or Facebook profile that lets you chat with friends or communicate with other users who share your interests. These 'social networks' let you create your own blog, upload photos and videos for others to see and add people to an online friends list.

Social networks are a great way of keeping in touch but you should think carefully before adding someone to your list of online friends or posting a blog entry that could get you into trouble at school, college or work. Remember:

  • your page is still a public place, so putting anything on your page that you wouldn't want your parents, teacher or boss to see is not a good idea
  • you can never be sure that other users are being truthful about their online identities, so be careful about what information you give out
  • to think about whether you know someone well enough before accepting someone into your group of linked friends
  • to make sure you know who to contact to report abuse or bullying on your page and how your complaint will be dealt with

If you are looking for more information about staying in control of your page and how to get the most out of social networking sites, ThinkUKnow has all the advice you need.

Chat room safety

When you're using a chat room or posting on a message board, never give out any personal information like your address or your phone number. You should always use a nickname, so no-one can look you up in a telephone directory and get your home phone number.

It's usually not a good idea to arrange to meet up with someone that you've been chatting to online. Remember that you can never be sure that they're telling the truth about their age or their interests and you could be putting yourself in danger.

If you do want to meet up with someone you've met online, make sure that you discuss it with your parents beforehand. If they do agree, make sure that you arrange a meeting in a public place and that you take an adult with you.

Personal details

Some websites will ask you to fill out a registration form before you can use them. While this is normal, it's a good idea to find out what the website will do with your personal details. All companies that collect information have to tell their customers how personal information will be used. Make sure you check the website's terms and conditions if you want to know.

Some sites allow other companies to use details from their user database for market research purposes. Companies have to give you the chance to tell them if you don't want your details to be used in this way. This is often done by having a tick box on the online registration page. If you don't want your information to be used, tick that box before you submit your information.

Protect yourself and your computer against online threats

Many people still don't like shopping on the internet because they think their bank details are not safe. Luckily, shopping on the web is now just as safe as ordering goods over the telephone, as long as you follow a few common sense rules.

If you do order goods over the internet, make sure that the company you're buying from uses a secure shopping server. You'll know if it is a secure site if a padlock icon appears at the bottom of your browser window, or the web address begins with 'https:'.

If it's a company that you've never heard of before, search their site for any contact numbers and postal addresses. If they're a respectable company, they won't mind you giving them a quick call to ask them a few questions.

Also, make sure that you never send your bank details to anyone in an email. Banks and online stores will never ask you to do this as it is not a secure way of sending information.

If you do receive an official-looking email that asks you to send your financial details, you should never reply as you could become a victim of identity fraud.

Was this information useful?

Thinking about what you have just read, how useful did you find the information?
Thinking about what you have just read, how useful did you find the information?
500 character limit

Why are we asking for this information?

  • we want to hear what you think about the quality and usefulness of our pages
  • your comments will help us improve our pages
  • your comments will also help with the future development of Directgov
  • telling us what you think will help make sure we give you the very best service

Access keys