Ulster children were today urged to protect themselves from falling victim to cyber bullies by making better use of security settings.
Internet specialists SmoothWall has produced a range of advice for children to ensure that they do not fall foul of other youngsters who target them on the web or with mobile phones.
According to Ofcom, over 40% of five to 15-year-olds and nearly two thirds of 12 to 15-year-olds in the UK regularly use the internet, while leading children's charity NCH has reported that at least one in five children has experienced some form of digital bullying.
As the dangers associated with the internet continue to evolve and develop, schools and parents are fighting an uphill battle to keep surfing safe.
Fortunately, thanks to the efforts of anti-bullying groups, Government agencies and service providers, a comprehensive range of guidance and resources on cyber bullying is now available.
But SmoothWall today said that unless password protection is suitably stepped up in schools, the digital bullies will continue to escape detection - which is why it has launched its Password Generator, specifically aimed at helping schools to teach students how to create cyber-bully proof passwords.
Tom Newton, product development manager at SmoothWall, said: "In schools, the biggest risks are from other users and so passwords need not be particularly long or even alphanumeric, just difficult to guess and easy to remember."
He explained that cyber bullies know that users leave digital signatures and that mobile phones and hotmail account access can be traced in seconds.
"To bypass this, cyber bullies guard their anonymity by using phones, email and Instant Messaging (IM) accounts belonging to others," he continued.
"Sometimes the owners are coerced into it, but often they are simply innocent victims of password theft, which is where SmoothWall feels there is a weak link and teachers need to educate students as to how this vulnerability can be eliminated.
"Conventional password wisdom is completely wrong for schools. Passwords don't need to be protected from automated dictionary or brute force attacks - where a computer program is used to guess passwords in multiple attempts - but from other pupils.
He admitted that for many ICT teachers, passwords are a hindrance: " Pupils frequently forget them - the first 15 minutes of every lesson can be often spent making sure that everyone is logged on. To combat this, many use generic log ins and some even admit to telling students to write their passwords in the front of their workbooks.
"Password sharing amongst kids and a tendency to choose passwords that can be easily guessed, such as favourite football teams, dates of birth, relatives or pets names."
For further advice on creating passwords, log onto www.smoothwall.net .