On The Beat: Staying safe online

This month I would like to give readers some information that is more relevant than ever.

As Covid 19 restrictions continue and people are spending more time online it is important to ensure that people are going online safely. Many people use Facebook, Twitter or other social media sites to keep in touch with friends and family online.

Talking to people online that you know is something that we all do, however people that you don’t know can also use social media to become your “friend”. You may feel the pressure to have lots of “friends” online, however it’s easy for someone to pretend to be someone else on the internet and you could end up having conversations on social media, with people who aren’t who they say they are.

Being online makes it easy for people to lie and pretend to be someone else for a variety of reasons including online fraud and grooming. Below is some online safety advice about keeping your children and yourselves safe online:

Keeping your children safe

  • Talk to your children about what they are looking at and who they are talking to online.
  • Remind them of the importance of not talking to, or accepting friend requests from people they don’t know in real life.
  • Encourage them to keep all personal information such as passwords, phone numbers, friend, school address details private.
  • Remind them that people might not be who they say they are online. It is very easy for people to set up accounts, with fake names, identities and photos, to make us all believe that they are someone they are not.
  • Warn them that the things they write and the photos they post online might be accessed by people other than their friends, if they don’t keep their accounts private.
  • Set parental controls and privacy settings so that you can see and control what your child or young person is doing online via their device. We have produced instructions on how to do this.
  • Highlight the risks of meeting people in person that your child only knows online. Meeting people in real life, that children and young people only know from being online, can pose many risks and children and young people should be encouraged to be open and honest with you or a trusted adult, if someone is asking to meet up with them in real life. This can be very dangerous and children and young people should be encouraged to tell their parents or an adult they trust, if someone is asking to meet them.

How can I protect my computer, tablet and smartphone?

It’s second nature to keep your valuables stored safely in your home and out of sight of burglars. But it’s equally important to keep your personal information safe from criminals when you’re online. As well as being alert to online scams, there are simple steps you can take to protect your device:

  1. Keep your passwords strong. Setting up strong passwords is one of the simplest, most effective things you can do to stay safe when you’re on the internet. Avoid passwords made up of common words, numbers or keyboard patterns (such as ‘password’ or ‘123456’), and don’t include personal information, like your name, date of birth or any family member’s details. Use different passwords for different accounts.
  2. Install security software on your computer. Anti-virus software will look for and remove viruses before they can infect your computer, and anti-spyware software prevents unwanted adverts from popping up, and stops programs tracking your activities or scanning your computer for private data, such as credit card numbers or bank details.
  3. Protect your tablet and your mobile phone. You can check emails, shop and bank online on tablets and smartphones, so they need protecting too. Start by password-protecting any devices. You can download anti-virus and anti-spyware protection for tablets and phones and a lot of the apps are free.
  4. Protect your wireless network. You need to protect your wireless network (also known as Wi-Fi) so that people living nearby can’t access it. Read the instructions that come with your wireless router to find out how to set up a ‘key’ (a type of password) so that no one else can access the internet through your router.
  5. Keep your device updated. Every device has an operating system, which is the software it needs to function properly. Computers will use Windows or Mac OS, and tablets and smartphones use Android or iOS. Your device can be better protected from viruses if you keep the operating system updated. You should receive notifications when new updates are available, but you can also update your system manually.

Keeping with the theme of online activity, I am looking for your help for us to improve the way we connect and engage with the community. Engagement is a big part of Neighbourhood Policing and as I have said in previous articles both the team and me personally have found it challenging not being able to do the face to face engagement that we all enjoy.

In order to improve our engagement through social media we are currently holding an online survey asking members of the public how they access our news and if they have any suggestions on how to boost our social media presence.
If you would like to take part in this survey then full details can be found by clicking here. Your views would help us improve out communication and social media engagement.

I would like to end by thanking you for playing such as important role in keeping people safe. Please continue to follow the rules and restrictions to ensure that keep yourselves, your families and your community safe. We all have a role to play and whilst it is incredibly challenging it is essential that everyone contributes as we look forward to more positive times.


This post was written by Inspector Lucy Leadbeater