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The Different Safety Aspects of Online Safety

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Young people between the ages of 15 – 24 have been found to be spending more and more time online. The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) reported that 70% of the youth, aged 15-24, are online (International Telecommunications Union, 2017). One of the major factors that have made this possible is technological innovations such as smartphones, personal computers, and tablets that have made the internet accessible virtually everywhere. Being a vast source of information, the internet is the largest reference tool and likely the most common.

The curious nature of young people tends to bring out inappropriate behaviors while online such us sexual indecency which results in exposure to pornographic materials, radicalization, cyber-bullying, viewing and distribution of indecent images of children. Broadband has increasingly become mobile with over 55% of the world population accessing it on mobile devices. Subscriptions to mobile broadband have grown by more than 20% annually in the last five years and was projected to reach 4.3 billion users globally by the end of 2017 (International Telecommunications Union, 2017). With this increasing access via mobile devices, largely through mobile phones, the threat to online safety is always increasing. These threats range from data leakage, Wi-Fi infringement, phishing attacks, privacy infringement and spying (Kaspersky Lab, 2017). It should be correctly assumed that young adults are therefore most likely to be affected by regressed or inadequate online safety This literature review intends to lay focus on the different safety aspects of online safety. It seeks to collect information from various resources and carry out an analysis of safety concerns. This literature review is compiled from a wide source of online information on young people’s online behavior globally. Specifically, it focuses on the risks young people face online and the mitigation efforts that can be introduced to secure mobile platforms.

What is online Safety

Online safety, otherwise termed as internet safety, involves the prevention and protection from security risks associated with using the internet as well as deterring any computer crime that may be posted online (Scheff, 2017).

According to the Family Online Safety

Institute’s report on how parents viewed the safety of their children online, only 37% of the parent’s felt that their children were safe. The rest raised concerns that their children were somewhat or totally unsafe when online (Family Online Safety Institute, 2014). This poses dire need to have means of securing the young users and/or monitoring their activity online.

Risks Faced Online

The leading risks faced online include phishing, internet scamming, malware, stalking, bullying, obscene exposure, privacy infringement and identity threat. Phishing involves the theft of user data or their security credentials by carriers that present themselves as trustworthy sources. Such sources will acquire user information like log-in details, credit card numbers, passwords, and other critical information. This information is later used to steal funds, identity theft or unauthorized credit card purchases (Norton, 2017).

The Time reported that MacEwan University in Canada unintentionally lost $10 million dollars to a phishing scam in 2017 (Abrams, 2017). It is estimated that phishing scams costed American businesses half a billion dollars in 2016 alone with the FBI having to investigate just over 22,000 incidents between December 2015 and December 2016 (Federal Bureau of Investigations, 2016). Social seclusion occurs when young adults opt to relate over online social platforms rather than interact physically with friends and cohorts. While there are certainly positive aspects to online relationships, particularly for young people who may face social isolation in one way or another, a growing body of research shows that heavy internet use can as a matter of fact cause isolation. By[DS1] obliviously allowing time spent online to replace one-on-one interaction with friends and families and spend their lives alone with glued to a laptop or phone, young people miss out on real-world experiences that are not available in the virtual world. Social withdrawal may lead to anxiety attacks or other advanced psychological complexities such as social phobia, withdrawal, speaking problems and agoraphobia (Calm Clinic, 2017)[DS2].

Cyberbullying may also manifest itself across social platforms. Just as with social interaction in the physical world, they may also encounter ‘cyberbullying’. In a study that surveyed a sample of 5,700 youths between July and October 2016, 33.8% of all total respondents said that they had encountered cyberbullying (Patchin & Hinduja, 2016)[DS3] [DS4]. Moral concerns in the form of indecent exposure, obscenities and sexual predation surface with this rapid growth in the online interaction among the young people. Undesirable content and proposition in unsupervised access to technology mean young people get access to materials and situations which they would not otherwise be available to them. This also includes the possibility of youth becoming victims of sex predation and pornography. It may also lead to sexual deviance as well as addiction to pornography. This may also carry with it sextortion as well as other crimes that include remote sexual assault (Wittes, Poplin, Jurecic, & Spera, 2016).

The Unsecured Mobile Phone

There continues to be a growing threat on mobile phones in that it might give a lot of access to a lot of a users’ information. This is especially true on the backdrop of numerous unverified applications that may be installed on the phones and open the possibility of leaking information that includes emails, phone numbers, social media accounts, GPRS locations, photos and other sensitive private information[DS5]. This has led to mobile phone developers to invest in the making sure the applications in the market are secured[DS6]. In 2016, Apple interventions included a requirement to have all applications in their market, the App Store, to have Transport Layer Security (TLS) which is a privacy and data integrity protocol that ensures security between two communicating applications (Purcell, 2017). Symantec, in their Norton Cyber Security Insight Report of 2016 reports that millennials are the most vulnerable when it comes to cybercrime with 40% having been exposed to such crime in the year. The lead form of transgression against them was password compromise with them being victims of phishing scams via email, instant messaging, text messages and chat rooms (Norton, 2017).

Near Field Communication(NFC) which uses wireless technology to send and receive information as well as complete transactions on mobile devices by the embedding of a chip. This platform creates a virtual wallet when used primarily for transactions where it is interconnected with the credit card or bank. Unfortunately, this convenient means has been open to risks such as eavesdropping by a third party’s intercept, manipulation of data in the chip as well as infection by viruses or worms. This leaves the user open to too many unforeseen risks and leaves them prone to losing data as well as funds where the attack involves money (Square Inc., 2017)[DS7].

WIFI Security

The Guardian reported that ‘All WIFI networks’ are vulnerable to hacking (Hern, 2016). In the article, they reported that a Belgian Security expert, Mathy Vanhoef, had discovered gaps in the WPA2 wireless security protocol that is the most used security protocol used in the world for WIFI connections. Some of the flaws he reported were that a possible introduction of malware and manipulation of data. This is due to the possibility of decryption through a weakness termed as Key Reinstallation Attack (KRACK). As much as that this flaw on WIFI needs for the attacker to be in proximity to the WIFI source and network, it remains a course of concern.

Safety Measures

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is due to become law across the European Union in May 2018[DS9]. As it can be seen, there are multiple numbers of provisions within the General Data Protection Regulation that are of particular importance to children and teenagers and their rights to participation and protection[DS10]. This includes and is not limited to the proposal that anyone under 16 years old will now require parental consent to register for social networks and other online services. If this comes to be, we can be one step closer to ensuring young people are safer online (Burges, 2017).

Another approach would be for teacher and parents to form an understanding of the development of children’s moral reasoning in this information age. Through consultative interaction with others, young people develop a framework for reasoning about moral issues which as a result shape the individual’s level of cognitive development. This will mean that youth can be able to form a basis for discerning and keeping off dangerous or even just suspicious platforms and report any crude activity online. It’s also useful to have some general principles or guidelines for young adults and teens when they go live on social media platforms. They need to keep on being nice to people online so that they are not perpetrators of bullying and victimization when they are not the victims. They also need to take care with what they share as at times it could give away very sensitive information. This can also be checked by keeping personal information private. It is also very important to check your privacy settings. Young adults also need to know how to report posts to avoid hate speech and insensitive postings. Passwords also must be kept safe and secret always. There is also need to make sure that they never meet anyone in person that they have only met online and if they see anything online that they don’t like or find upsetting, they should have the courage to tell someone they trust.

Keeping Youth Safe Online

With more and more youth continuously exposed to threats online, there needs to be mitigation efforts to ensure online safety for them.

The social media platforms pose the greatest threat as more youth interact through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and similar platforms. Parents have been finding it harder to check their children activities online without the contention of privacy infringements. More parents are raising concerns about the type of exposure their children, especially teenagers and young adults, are facing online (Family Online Safety Institute, 2014). The South West Grid for Learning (SWGFL) Trust in England proposes that parents and guardians need to promote dialogue between themselves and the young adults as a mean to set the basis for online safety. There remains an important aspect of ensuring that the youth are made aware of the vices that they could be met with once online. This can be done by having a conversation with the youth. This dialogue will also allow for youth to report stalkers, bullies or other perpetrators of online crime. It also allows for parents and guardians to detect initial online security red flags. It is also a means to look for signs and opportunities to intervene. They can be able to offer counsel on healthy online relationships as well as unhealthy ones (Tremlett & Glassbrook, 2017). Buddy schemes can also offer a means to keep young people safe online. The buddy scheme is used to mentor and befriend young people as they engage online.

The buddies can give an ear and nurture trust between them and the youth. In turn, the buddies can monitor their activities and interactions online as well as ensure that there are no safety and privacy infringements online. The youth are also mentored on staying safe on the internet as well as keep keen focus so as not to become a victim of vices online (SPLITZ Support Services, 2017). Ultimately, young people need to go through training on being safe online. It will help them keep off predators, bullies or phishing scams.

Critical Analysis

The different literature emphasizes that young adults remain very prone to online attacks. Part of the attacks is caused by gaps in the platforms and devices they use to go online. Data from private organizations like Norton portend that more and more young people will receive online attacks if no tangible interventions are put in place (Norton, 2017). The situation is reaffirmed by Internet Live Stats that portends more people will be online this year alone than there were in the same period of last year (Internet Live Stats, 2017). This is due to governments deliberate intentions to bridge the data gap globally. The literature points towards the need for developers to invest in more secure protocols and devices. It also infers that there is a need to have better means for monitoring how young adults are engaging in the online platforms.

Failure of this, more and more young adults remain prone to victimization, harassment, online induced self-harm and much more possible negative situations. The dependency on the internet is not going away anytime soon in all quarters of the world. The more the progress that is made on the online front, the more the need to make it secure. The cloud has meant that more data on persons is available in real time than it ever was in the past. The data ranges from very private to very sensitive forms and this means that there is a need to keep it secure and safe. On the other hand, young adults’ online activities need to be monitored closely and interventions laid out anytime there are genuine concerns that they could be at risk, or that they could become perpetrators of the wrongs.

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