Matt Farrington-Smith
09/06/2011 15:29 | By Matt Farrington-Smith, editor, MSN Tech & Gadgets

How to stay safe on Windows Live Messenger

Safety is paramount when chatting online. Here are several important things to remember when using an instant messenger.

How to keep your children safe online. Image CEOP

There's lots of fun to be had on the web. Whether it be chatting, listening to music or finding new friends from around the world.

But we must remember that the internet can be a dangerous place and your screen can't hide you from the very real dangers that may lie in wait.

You'll be fine as long as you keep the following in mind:

  • Be aware of an online presence
  • People may not be who they say they are
  • Avoid attachments sent by strangers
  • Trust is everything
  • Keep personal information private

There are some people out there who devote their lives to collecting little pieces of personal information. If you're a parent - advise your children against giving out personal information to people online or posting such information on websites. After a while, such postings will form an online presence, which can be found using any search

Help your child choose a screen name or email address that does not reveal anything personal - age, sex, hobbies, what school they go to, where they live and like to play, etc. And of course, avoid suggestive names such as "happygirl" which act as magnets to users with ill intent.

Report abuse: Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre
Find out more about reporting online abuse

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Warn your child how their online account might be stolen

When it comes to things like photographs, digital images can go anywhere technology does and be copied thousands of times. Once an image is on the web, it will remain there forever and can be found by just about anybody with an ounce of search smarts.

People online may not be who they say they are

Advise your child that easiest way to get rid of abusive people online is to tell them that you are saving the conversation on your computer and reporting them.

Keep your children safe online. Image CEOP

Advise against opening attachments from strangers

If your child opens files, links, or email attachments from strangers, they could be opening a virus; an unsavory image or downloading malicious software.

It's always worth double checking the source before opening attachments. Run a virus scan to be doubly sure.

You should also be aware that online strangers might not be seen as strangers by your child. If your child has been chatting to the same person over many months, they might have built up a relationship involving trust. This will make your child more likely to accept and open files from this person - in your eyes they would be a stranger, but to your child they are not.

Gaining trust

If your child uses the internet, it is worth spending some time familiarising yourself with your children's online habits.

Encourage your child to make notes of communications sites they visit and to take note of the people she/he chats with regularly.

Encourage your child to show you anything that upsets or disturbs them whilst online and remember that the police can act more swiftly on cases of abuse involving children if you produce recorded evidence.

Report abuse: Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre
Find out more about reporting online abuse

It is up to you to gain your child's trust so that they will feel comfortable in letting you know about possible meetings they might be planning with people they have met online.

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