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Be safe online!

Last updated on Monday, 30/08/2021

We spend a lot of time connected to the Internet on our phones, tablets and laptops to connect to social media, stay in touch with our friends, watch movies, listen to music and to study or work. But how safe are we online?

Young people have the right to enjoy the best possible online experiences the internet can provide. Each year, in February, the EU organises the Safe Internet Day campaign to raise awareness on how collective efforts can make the difference to make a better internet for the future (#SaferInternet4EU). The first thing is to be aware of the risks you could be confronted with by surfing online and to know what you can do about it.


Everything you publish on the internet loses privacy. Putting personal information on blogs, in your profile or on discussion forums can, therefore, be dangerous and lead to abuse. Be also careful not to say or do anything on the internet that you would not do in real life and think about who sees what you post online (complete strangers? friends? friends of friends?). Make sure to set up your privacy settings

Indeed, if recent EU laws make it easier to permanently delete the personal information you’ve shared (did you hear about GDPR? check our article about your rights online), in practice it can sometimes be very complicated to retrieve it or have it deleted. The quicker you act the better, as the longer content is up, the more it can be shared. If you want to evaluate your internet security knowledge, take the CyberSecurity online quiz. It will take max 10 minutes and certainly you will learn something useful!

Sexting (sending of sexually explicit digital images, videos, text messages, or emails, usually by cell phone) is a good example of privacy risks. Although the intention can be innocent and you trust the person you are sending messages to, what if the image or video is shared or intercepted?

Online grooming 

Grooming is the process in which an adult, so-called the “groomer”, contacts you online, mostly through the use of fake profiles representing a young person or a celebrity. The groomer can have multiple motives for tricking you and abusing from your innocence: to exploit you and get some money out of the picture you could share for their own sexual pleasure (some pictures could end up in a pedophile dark web), or to blackmail you. This is a crime. It is called online sexual coercion and extortion.

The groomer will usually build trust before. It’s not easy to know if someone’s trying to groom you. Make sure you don’t send naked images or videos of yourself on online forums or social media if you don’t personally know the receiver. If you think you are confronted with a groomer, make sure to stop the conversation, look for help and report the person

Hate speech 

Hate speech is about expressing a generalised negative opinion about a particular group or person belonging to that group. It’s one form of racism and discrimination prevailing across Europe and amplified by the Internet and social media. Xenophobia is the most commonly reported grounds of hate speech followed by sexual orientation and anti-Muslim hatred (Code of conduct on countering hate speech online). The EU has been working with online providers to make sure victims can report hate speech.

The Council of Europe has launched a campaign “No Hate Speech Campaign” to raise awareness on the importance of denouncing hate speech. This campaign is a call for action, on the campaign website young people will find resources to take action and national contacts to report hate speech.

Cyber bullying 

Cyberbullying is a phenomenon that occurs online when a young person (or a group) threatens, humiliates or hurts another person. It can occur at any time and place, the cyberbully can act anonymously and often there are more witnesses online than in real life bullying. The first Thursday of November, the International Day against Violence and Bullying at School Including Cyberbullying is organised by UNESCO and its Member States, recognising that school-related violence in all its forms is an infringement of children and adolescents’ rights to education and to health and well-being. 

There is a lot you can do to combat it both online and offline, at school or elsewhere in your community. The first thing is to stand up for others if you see someone is being bullied. Make sure to get involved and stand up! If you are a victim, don’t be afraid to talk with someone, either your friends, family, teacher, a specialised service or any adult you trust (check the members of the European Anti-Bullying Network or the national equality body in your country of residence). Find help, you are not alone and always remember that the cyberbully is the one to be ashamed! 

Fake news

Fake news are present everywhere on the web, they are inaccurate or misleading news knowingly launched in the media to manipulate opinions. To be able to recognise them, you have to be able to identify the information. 

There are basic principles to check the validity of the information: ask yourself who is the author and his/her objectives? Is the news posted on a trusted site? Is it published on other reliable sources? Strengthening your critical thinking skills to distinguish reliable sources of information from misinformation is essential. One golden rule: if it's too bad or too good to be true it probably isn't true!

Read more about the topic on this other article on the European Youth Portal. 

Want to report an abuse? 

Most European countries have established national reporting mechanisms and support for victims of cyber bullying, hate speech and hate crime, provided by national authorities and NGOs. Check the list provided by the Council of Europe.
Within the EU, Ins@fe, part of the network of Safer Internet Centres provides a list of helplines gathering information, advice and assistance to young people on how to deal with harmful content, harmful contact such as grooming, and harmful conduct such as cyberbullying or sexting. You can make a report or refer directly to the network’s helplines

The EU Better Internet for Kids portal offers resources and tips to protect yourself when you go on the net. There is a section dedicated to young people “BIK Youth” in which you can access useful resources and participate by making your voice heard. 

Are you a junior cyber security expert?

The European Cyber Security Challenge is the annual European event that brings together young talent from across Europe to have fun and compete in cybersecurity. The 2020 edition will take place in Vienna from 3-7 November 2020.

Top cyber talents from each participating country will meet in Vienna to network and collaborate and finally compete against each other. Contestants will be challenged in solving security related tasks from domains such as web security, mobile security, crypto puzzles, reverse engineering and forensics and in the process collect points for solving them.

Discover how to join on the event’s website.