Ready for social networking?
Want to stay in touch with your friends online? You’ll know there are lots of ‘social networking’ websites and mobile apps that people use to chat, comment, share pictures and game with their friends.
You probably also know that for most of these sites, like Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, you need to be at least 13 years old to sign up. For some, like Whatsapp, you need to be even older.
If you’re under 13 you shouldn’t be using them – you’ll be breaking their rules and could be putting yourself at risk.
There are lots of reasons why these sites can be unsafe for young people, even those over 13, so it’s important that you don’t use them until you know how to do so safely.
Remember - there’s no rush to start social networking and there are plenty of other ways to stay in touch with your friends, chat and game until you’re ready to use them safely.
If you’re already using social networks, make sure you know what the risks are and what you can do to be safer.
5 reasons not to rush
Social networking lets people share loads of information about who they are and what they like doing – with lots of different people.
This can put you in difficult situations. Here are 5 things that can go wrong:
Too much information.
Social networks let you post all kinds of information. The more information you put online the more people can find out about you. Some people might use this to bully you or contact you and lie about being into the same things as you.
What TV shows did you find funny a few years ago? Do you still think they’re funny now? As we get older our interests and the things we find funny change. The problem is things you post on social networks can be difficult to delete – other people could have copied them or shared them. Will you want things you post today to be hanging around in a few years time? Find out more about digital footprints
It’s easy to lie online.
Some people set up fake profiles on social networks. They even pretend to be girls or boys your age when actually they’re much older. It can be really hard to tell the difference between someone who’s genuine and a fake.
Just as social networks can be used to share lots of great information about yourself and stay in touch with all your friends – they can also be used to share nasty things - embarrassing pictures, horrible comments, fake profiles – and say nasty things to people.
I did NOT want to see that.
Anyone can post videos, pictures or ideas on social networks – nice or nasty. That means you might see things you wish you hadn’t.
5 top tips for safer social networking
If you use social networks always think about who can see the things you post and what they reveal about you.
Know who your friends are.
It’s really tempting to accept as many friend requests or follows as possible. It can make us feel popular. But remember, they could be anyone. Do you really want them seeing your pictures, videos or comments?
Share with care.
Once you’ve put something online you’ve lost control of it – it can be copied, shared or edited. It could turn up anywhere. You might be happy showing a funny picture to your friends but would you want your parents or teachers to see it?
Use privacy settings.
Most social networks let you limit what you share to friends or followers you’ve OKed. It’s always a good idea to only let people you know and trust see your stuff. Learn how to use privacy settings and how to block people who are bothering you.
Know how to report.
Most social networks let you report to them if you have a problem on their site. So if someone’s shared an embarrassing picture or is being nasty to you, you need to know how to get help. Learn how to report on any site or app you use by visiting their ‘safety’ pages. Find the Safety pages of popular sites
Know how to get help.
If someone’s bullying you on a social network you should talk to an adult you trust, or, if you’d rather speak to someone you can call Childline on 0800 1111. If someone’s being weird or making you feel uncomfortable, talking about sex or asking you to do things you don’t want to do you should report to CEOP. Whatever may have happened CEOP will understand. You won’t be in trouble.
Worried about something that’s happened on a social network?
Report to the site
If you're worried about something that's been shared or said on a social network you might be able to report it to the website. Find out how
Talk to someone
ChildLine is a free helpline for children and young people. You can contact ChildLine about anything. No problem is too big or too small. Whatever your worry, it's better out than in.
ChildLine is a private and confidential service. Confidential means not telling anyone else what you’ve said. This means that whatever you say stays between you and ChildLine.
They would only need to tell someone else if:
- You ask them to
- We believe your life or someone else’s life is in immediate danger
- You are being hurt by someone in a position of trust who has access to other children like a teacher or police officer
- You tell us that you are seriously harming another young person
Call them on 0800 1111. The number won’t appear on your phone bill.
You can also visit www.childline.org.uk to speak to a counsellor online.
Share your experiences with other young people
Talk to other young people about your experiences and get support at the ChildLine messageboards. There are lots of young people talking about everything from sex and relationships to sport and fashion.
CEOP helps young people who are being sexually abused or are worried that someone they’ve met is trying to abuse them.
If you’ve met someone online, or face to face, and they are putting you under pressure to have sex or making you feel uncomfortable you should report to CEOP.
This might be someone:
- Making you have sex when you donʼt want to
- Chatting about sex online
- Asking you to meet up face to face if youʼve only met them online
- Asking you to do sexual things on webcam
- Asking for sexual pictures of you
- Making you feel worried, anxious or unsafe
If this is happening to you, or you’re worried that it might be, you can report this to CEOP.