Risks to user safety include abusive behaviour or cyberbullying, inappropriate behaviour and grooming. These risks can appear in a variety of different contexts, eg: chat rooms, text messages, e-mail, social networking sites and instant messaging.
These risks generally result from the activity of malicious individuals and/or groups, rather than being software-driven. They are likely to be directed against people, rather than computers, so they are among the more dangerous types of threat.
Cyberbullying is a growing Internet safety issue. It is similar to physical bullying, the difference being that Internet services are used to carry out the attacks. Services such as social networking sites, e-mail, chat rooms, discussion forums and instant messaging can all be used in this type of bullying. Cyberbullying is a criminal offence and is punishable by law.
The rise in popularity of mobile phones has opened another door for bullies to use the short messaging service (SMS) to issue threats and other unwelcome messages. A related problem involves the filming of assaults by mobile phone. This is often known as happy slapping.
It is almost inevitable that you will meet new people online, especially of you visit chatrooms, or use social networking sites such as Facebook or Bebo. Unfortunately, some of these people may behave in an inappropriate manner. Behaviour of this nature can include:
- Online bullying
- Sexually or racially oriented comments
- Uploading adult, illegal or anti-social material
- Accessing adult or illegal sites
- Breaking copyright laws
- Repeated and unwanted contact
If you experience any behaviour that you find inappropriate, encounter offensive material, or know of any abuse happening online, you should report it to the appropriate authorities. You should also block the offending user or delete them from your Contact List.
Grooming is another extremely serious Internet threat that is causing great concern. This type of threat is aimed mainly at young people. Typically, an older person will use the Internet and its services, particularly chat rooms and social networking sites, to communicate with younger people.
Groomers will provide inaccurate information about themselves and in many cases will pretend to be a younger person. Once the groomer has made on-line contact with their victim they will spend time becoming their friend and trying to get as much personal information as they can.
This process could go on for weeks or even months. The eventual aim of the groomer is to arrange to meet the victim in person in order to carry out some type of illegal activity, usually of a sexual nature.