With the rise in popularity of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, it’s necessary to take a step back and think about how you use them. You and your children must ensure that not just personal information is posted on social media, but also that your behaviour on these sites is within your control.

Control your information online

Be mindful of the possibility of cyber-enabled fraud. Identity thieves can utilise information collected from such sites to conduct fraud. Telling everyone about your next vacation could be an early warning to a thief – it’s amazing how much information we expose about ourselves over time.

If you have children, you should be aware of the risks of strangers contacting them and then grooming them, forming an emotional bond with them in order to meet with them for the goal of sexual abuse or exploitation.

Many online games allow users to communicate with one another; do you know who your child is conversing with?

Control your behaviour

Many offences can be committed in the heat of the moment, or drink, the typing of a comment that cannot then be taken back.

Trolling, or sending abusive messages online, can be an offence under the Malicious Communications Act 1988 and the Communications Act 2003, with stiff penalties in both cases.

Revenge porn, for example publishing intimate images of an ex-partner without their consent, is now a criminal offence and often results in a prison sentence.

What appears to be harmless banter may be hurtful, and what is intended for a small audience may be seen by thousands.

In some cases, creating a fraudulent social networking profile or account can be a criminal offence.

What about freedom of speech?

This is not an absolute right and may be restricted where necessary and proportionate.

Think it couldn’t happen to you?

Do you recall the Robin Hood Airport incident? A young man made a light-hearted remark about blowing up the airport if he couldn’t make his trip due to bad weather.

He ended up in court, was convicted by magistrates, and had his conviction overturned on appeal before a second High Court appeal. He had already lost his work as a result of the conviction by that time.

What are the consequences?

Because it may accentuate the effect of violence, social media has recently been blamed for an upsurge in knife crime. As a result, internet offences are taken quite seriously.

Last year, the Crown Prosecution Service changed its policy statements to reflect the rise in online abuse, stating that individuals must understand that they cannot simply go online and push a button and expect no repercussions.

On the other hand, stating something unpopular or unpleasant is not illegal; people’s sensitivities must be balanced with free speech, and we have seen a lot of examples that alarm us.

This wave of sensitivity may lead to people confessing guilty when they are not – get legal guidance as soon as possible.