What do you like to do online? Watch videos? Post pictures? Play games? Whatever you like doing, if you use the internet you might have met people online who want to chat.
They might leave comments on your posts or request to be your friend or follower. Maybe they say they live near you or like the same music as you.
With over 4 billion people on the internet there are plenty of people to meet. It can be fun chatting to people who are interested in the same things as us. Some people online will be honest and just want to chat or be friends. However, not everyone you chat to online will be who they say they are.
It’s easy to lie online
Even if you’ve been chatting to the same person for ages and you feel like you know them, it can be difficult to know if someone is telling the truth.
Lots of people online are genuine. But some people use the internet to chat to young people because they want to hurt them or make them do things they don’t want to.
So, if you are going to chat to people you meet online here are some tips to help you do it safely.
REMEMBER – if someone makes you feel uncomfortable, worried or even frightened online you should tell an adult you trust, or report to CEOP. Whatever may have happened you won’t be in trouble.
Listen to yourself
Sometimes your online friends might not have your best interests at heart, and might ask you to do things that you don't want to do. Trust your gut instincts and be careful about what you share with them.
Watch the video to see what happens when Paul's online friend asks him to send pictures of himself.
5 things to look out for
It can be difficult to know if online friends are genuine, here are some signs that they might not be:
They’re too good to be true
Do they like all the same things as you and give you loads of attention? Are they really nice about things you post like photos? It’s great to meet people you connect with but some people use the internet to make friends with young people and then abuse their trust. If you think someone might not be who they say they are tell an adult you trust or report to CEOP.
They offer presents or make promises
Do they make promises or offer you gifts if you will do things for them? Giving gifts and making promises can be a way of putting pressure on you. If you feel under pressure to do something you don’t want to do, you might be chatting to someone unsafe and should talk to an adult you trust.
They put pressure on you
Do they try to talk about things you’re not comfortable with, like sex? It’s wrong for anyone to put pressure on you to do things you’d be embarrassed about or don’t want to do. If anyone puts any pressure on you or makes you feel uncomfortable you should tell an adult you trust or report to CEOP.
They want to message in private
Have they asked to ‘private message’ or to add you on a social network or mobile app? Ask yourself, why do they need to chat in private? Games, chatrooms or forums are usually ‘public places’ where other people can see your conversations. Sometimes they will have ‘moderators’ who can look out for, and block anything that's inappropriate. You should keep your chat in a ‘public place’ to stop anyone from saying or doing anything weird.
They want the chats to be kept secret
Do they tell you to keep your chat secret? Do they say you’ll be in trouble if you don’t? If they ask you to keep secrets they might be trying to stop you from getting help if things feel uncomfortable. You shouldn’t keep secrets for people you meet online. If a secret is making you worried or anxious tell an adult you trust or call ChildLine on 0800 1111.
Chat with confidence
Here are some things to consider:
What could they find out?
If you post stuff online, think about how much people could find out about you from it. Have you posted about your favourite music or sports? Remember, people do lie online and the more information they have about you the easier it is for them to try to trick you.
Don’t say too much
If you’re chatting to someone, don’t tell them anything which could help them find you in the real world – things like your full name, school, email address or even photos. Remember, even if you’ve been chatting for ages you still can’t be sure that they aren’t up to no good.
Be careful on camera
It can be unsafe to video chat with people you meet online. Some people online will threaten to share a private video or picture with other people if you don’t do what they say. If anyone threatens you in this way they are breaking the law and you should report them to CEOP. Whatever has happened, you won’t be in trouble!
Don’t meet up without an adult you trust
People do lie online so it’s always risky to meet up face to face with someone you’ve met online. If you do meet up with someone, make sure you do it in a busy public place and take an adult you trust with you. If you take a friend you could put them at risk as well. Tell the person you're meeting you want to meet in a public place and that you're bringing an adult with you. Anyone who genuinely wants to be friends should understand that you want to make sure you are safe.
Block and report
Most websites you can chat on will let you ‘block’ other people if don’t want to talk to them anymore. Learn how to do this on any sites and apps you use. If someone makes you feel uncomfortable or upset ‘block’ them.
Know how to report
No matter how long you’ve been chatting and whatever has happened it’s never too late to seek help if someone starts being weird with you, makes you feel uncomfortable, worried or frightened. If you don’t want to talk to an adult you trust you can always phone Childline on 0800 1111 or report to CEOP. They will understand and be able to help. You won’t be in trouble.
Worried about someone you’ve been chatting to online?
Have you met someone online and you’re not sure they are who they say they are? Is an online relationship moving too fast? Is someone trying to take things further by showing you porn or asking you to do sexual things on camera? If you’re doing things you don’t want to do it’s never too late to get help. You won’t be in trouble.
Talk to an adult you trust, like a parent, carer, teacher or youth worker. If you don’t want to speak to someone you know there are organisations who can help.
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 camera
- 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.
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.
- They 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.
The Mix provides free, confidential support for young people. They'll explore your situation with you and find organisations that may be able to help you further.
The Mix have a crisis messenger text service that provides 24/7 support. If you’re experiencing any painful emotion or are in crisis, you can text THEMIX to 85258.