Staying safe online

Introduction

Staying safe online and understanding the risks posed by technology is now an important part of everyday life. As technology advances it can sometimes be hard to know how to protect yourself and where to go to report something that happens online.

In recent years the Government has introduced new laws to help protect people online. Including the introduction of the Online Safety Bill which will make it easier to remove illegal content from social media platforms and new laws that makes it easier to prosecute criminals who share intimate images without consent.

There are guidelines in place to help protect young people online and ensure that the content they see is age appropriate. Social media platforms recommend that children need to be aged 13+ to register for an account on: Instagram, TikTok, Facebook and Snapchat. Further information about this can be found on the NSPCC website here.

Some children, young people and adults can find themselves exposed to situations online that make them feel uncomfortable, scared or vulnerable. If you are worried about something you or someone you know has seen online then there are a number of organisations where you can seek advice.

It’s illegal for anyone to have, share or make sexual images or videos of people under 18. Legally this includes personal images or videos made by under 18s and shared with each other (sometimes called ‘sexting’).

Ideas for you

If you suspect someone has been a victim of an online crime you can report it to Devon and Cornwall Police here.

If you are a young person and have experienced sexual images or videos being posted online you can report this confidentially here and have them removed.

Image-based sexual abuse also referred to as ‘revenge porn’ is a criminal offence. It is illegal to share sexually explicit images of a person without their consent with the aim of causing distress or harm. If someone has shared images of you online, you can report this to the website and ask for them to be removed and can report it to the police here. Further advice from Victim Support can be found here.

You can report online child sexual abuse anonymously to the Internet Watch Foundation here.

Things that might help

Advice for young people:

There are lots of things you can do to make yourself safer online and more advice can be found on the Childline website here. Here are some key tips to help protect yourself:

If you see something online that upsets you or makes you feel afraid try and speak to an adult that you trust. You can speak to a Childline Counsellor by email, phone or online here.

You can find advice about reporting something you have seen online to Child Exploitation and Online Protection here, who are able to help with instances of online sexual abuse and grooming.

You can also confidentially report online sexual/ nude images about yourself to Childline here and get them taken down.

Advice for parents:

Keeping children safe online is now a key challenge many parents face and the expansion of technology has meant that many children are now exposed to online apps and platforms at a younger age.

The National Society for the Protection of Children has a great online resource for parents which includes talking to your children about their first phone and setting parental controls.

There are a range of privacy settings and features on social media, games and apps that you can apply as a parent. This includes preventing unwanted contact from strangers and limiting exposure to posts. More information about this can be found here as well as links to guides about apps or online platforms.

Further information about the new Online Safety Bill and what this means for young people can be found here.