Online Safety

No Comments

Good communication is the key to every successful relationship with people in your life. Good communication means being clear in explaining how you feel, listening to other people and taking on board their opinions without falling out with them.

These days, communication takes on many forms, from speaking to people in person face to face, using a mobile to talk and text, online using email, messenger or social networks or using webcams or video chat to talk face to face virtually.

This section looks at the different ways in which we communicate and how to deal with things if something goes wrong, including how and where to get the information and advice you need.

Managing communication with people in your life can be tricky sometimes as misunderstandings and conflicts can and do happen in every relationship. Sometimes they are just misunderstandings, sometimes they lead to arguments and sometimes they are more serious, like being bullied, discriminated against or abused.

When things go wrong, it’s easy to blame ourselves and we often feel upset, scared, worried or confused. The most important thing to remember if you feel troubled or concerned about your situation is to confide in someone you trust to get the support and advice you need. You can also approach professional organisations that exist to help, protect and support you so you don’t have to deal with it alone or in silence.

Dealing with conflict and arguments –

You can call The Samaritans at any time for free on 116 123 to discuss any issues or problems you may have. You can also chat online with someone from Meic or call the helpline on 0808 80 23456.


Socialising and having a social life with individuals or groups of friends is an important aspect of life. It’s about being connected to other people and being part of society or a community, how friendships are built and developed and how you meet new people.

It doesn’t matter how many friends you have, socialising is about sharing interests and activities that you enjoy with people and doing things that make you feel good about yourself. That’s not to say that having time to yourself isn’t important too. Some people prefer time by themselves or to socialise with one or two friends rather than large groups. With close friendships, quality is better than quantity.

Staying Safe

Whatever type of socialising you prefer, staying safe is important not only for your wellbeing but also so you enjoy whatever you’re doing.

  • If you’re going out with friends, let someone know where you’ll be and what time you’ll be back. Your parents will have peace of mind and you’ll be able to relax and enjoy yourself without phone calls from them!
  • Make sure your phone is charged in case you need to be contacted or have an emergency. If you witness an incident or are in danger, most mobile phones will dial 999 or 112 for emergency services even without credit or even a SIM inserted
  • Always plan how you’ll get home from wherever you’re going and give yourself enough time if you plan to catch a bus, train, walking etc. If you have to catch a taxi home, make sure you have enough money
  • Ideally always travel home with a friend, stay in streets and roads that are well-lit where you will be safer. If you feel that you are in danger and see a policeman on the street you have the right to ask them to accompany you home or to a safe place.
  • Never accept a lift from someone you don’t know, even if they are around your age and seem friendly, it’s better to know you’re safe than put yourself at risk. Keep your personal belongings with you at all times
  • If you’re old enough to drink alcohol, don’t accept drinks from other people – that way you’ll always know exactly what and how much you’re drinking and know that nothing has been put into your drink
  • If you have been drinking then your defences will be lowered and your judgement might be impaired making you an easy target. Strangers might seem friendlier but don’t put yourself in any unnecessarily risky situations where you might be taken advantage of

Sometimes incidents occur that could’ve been avoided because risks were taken with personal safety – it’s better to be overly cautious than to find yourself in danger or a situation you can’t handle.

You can call The Samaritans at any time for free on 116 123 to discuss any issues or problems you may have. You can also chat online with someone from Meic or call the helpline on 0808 80 23456.

The Internet & Social Media

The Internet can be a great way of meeting new people and making friends who share similar interests.

Some people find it easier to communicate online because it isn’t face-to-face. They can be open and honest without fear of being judged, so friendships can easily develop online. However, not all the people you talk to might be telling the truth and you need to be cautious when talking online.

  • There are a small number of paedophiles (child sex offenders) posing as young people on social media in order to “groom” young people for sexual abuse. These people will usually pose as a young person themselves with similar interests to you, although they are usually grown men, to try and get the person they are befriending to meet them
  • If you are ever shown any sexually explicit material on the Internet or are being talked to inappropriately, you should tell your parents and contact the police. Don’t be embarrassed. It is not your fault and you won’t be in any trouble

There are ways to protect yourself when you are talking to people online:

  • Never give out your telephone or mobile number, home address or the name of your school under any circumstance
  • Try and stay out of private chat rooms where you have one-to-one conversations. By staying within the main public chat room, others can see your conversation and you are safer
  • If you decide to meet an online friend, NEVER EVER GO ALONE. Always take an adult with you for your own safety, even if you are not worried. Don’t be embarrassed to protect your self – if your new friend is genuine, they won’t mind. Remember, this person is still a stranger to you so stay safe at all times. It doesn’t matter how old you are, you could still be in danger, so ALWAYS take someone with you

The Mix – making friends online

BullyingUK – How to stay safe online

NSPCC – Online safety

Dating Online

Online dating can be a good way to meet potential partners, especially if you are shy or can’t find the time to socialise and meet people. Remember even though you might be meeting someone through an online agency, they are still a stranger and you must still think of your own safety at all times.

There are a few precautions you can take before your date:

  • ALWAYS TAKE SOMEONE WITH YOU. They can watch from a distance to ensure you are safe and happy
  • Always meet in a public place, like a restaurant or bowling alley for example. Never meet at someone’s house or let them pick you up from yours
  • Never give them your home address or mobile number
  • Always tell others where you are going and what time you are due back
  • Remind people of your mobile number before you leave

The Mix – dating online safely

Get Safe Online – Safe online dating

Childnet International

You can call The Samaritans at any time for free on 116 123 to discuss any issues or problems you may have. You can also chat online with someone from Meic or call the helpline on 0808 80 23456.


  • If you get a text from a number you don’t recognise, then always ask who it is if you reply as it could be from someone you don’t know and haven’t given your number to. It might be a wrong number or it could be someone that you don’t want to talk to or to have your number so make sure you check who you’re talking to
  • If you’re getting bullying or abusive texts then treat it in the same way you would if you were being bullied in person – speak to someone you trust who can support you to deal with it. An immediate solution to stop the texts is to block the number


Sexting is the exchange of sexual messages or pictures – whether wanted or unwanted.

  • This could be you sending a message, picture or video to your boyfriend or girlfriend or receiving one from someone you know or even from a stranger
  • Sometimes strangers send messages to people asking them sexually explicit questions or for them to send them a picture of themselves.
  • Whenever you send something explicit to someone else, it is out of your control as to what happens to it next. You are risking that message, picture or video falling into the wrong hands, being spread around to different people or in the worst case scenario, ending up online for anyone to see
  • If your boyfriend or girlfriend is asking you to do this, make sure that you completely trust them to respect your privacy. They might share it with their friends who might not have the same level of respect for your privacy or relationship that you do
  • If you are being asked to do this by someone that you aren’t in an intimate relationship with, ask yourself why do they want it? What are they hoping to do with the message, picture or video that you send them? If you aren’t in a relationship with them, why send them something so risky that could have embarrassing consequences for you. If they are asking you because they like you, then suggest that they get to know you better
  • If you are being asked to do this by a stranger then alarm bells should be ringing – they don’t know you, yet want intimate details or pictures of you for their own pleasure and you have no way of knowing who they will be passed on to or where they will end up

If you are under the age of 18, sexting is illegal and anyone caught with possession of an indecent image(s) of a person under the age 18 can be prosecuted.

Don’t feel pressured to send anything with sexual content to anyone – even your closest group of friends or boyfriend/girlfriend. You don’t have to put yourself at risk in this way and don’t have to do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable or pressured.

If they have any respect for you then they will respect your right not to put yourself in a vulnerable situation or put yourself on public display. In a worst case scenario, imagine that your parents or teachers came across those pictures or messages and how embarrassed you would feel.

There is nothing ‘cool’ about having your messages, pictures or videos spread amongst your friends, school or put online for anyone to see.

NSPCC – Sexting

Childline – Sexting

You can call The Samaritans at any time for free on 116 123 to discuss any issues or problems you may have. You can also chat online with someone from Meic or call the helpline on 0808 80 23456. 

Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is abuse. It is aggressive and uncontrollable behaviour that takes place in the home, within the family or within relationships. Men, women and children can be victims of domestic violence but it affects 1 in 4 women every year. One incident of domestic violence is reported to the police every minute.

Please see a list at the bottom of the page of organisations and charities that can offer you support, advice and guidance if you are or have been affected by domestic violence.

Types Of Domestic Violence

  • Physical abuse such as punching, hitting, pushing, kicking, pulling hair etc
  • Emotional abuse such as threats, psychological intimidation, acts of cruelty, excessive jealousy and controlling behaviour such as not letting you see your friends or leave the house, controlling your life, putting you down and criticising you constantly, name-calling or any other forms of intimidation
  • Forcing sex or you to perform a sexual act
  • Withholding your money or taking your money and not returning it

Every form of domestic violence is a crime and this also applies to victims who are under 18. It is your right to be protected from it so seek help immediately.

Getting Help

  • Being a victim in your own home or to the one you love is traumatic. Many people feel ashamed, belittled and lonely, but violent men or women won’t change without help. If your life and the lives of any children are at risk, you must take action before it’s too late
  • Leaving can be very difficult, so it may help to involve others. Tell your parents, a trusted friend or even the police what you are planning to do and get support. Have someone with you for protection when you leave
  • You will also need to find a safe place to go. You could go to your parents or a friend’s, but if you are worried your partner will find you, there are organisations that can provide secret and secure accommodation for you and any children you have, like women’s refuges – see the links at the bottom of the page
  • There are plenty of organisations dedicated to supporting victims of domestic violence such as Women’s Aid who can offer advice and support before and after you leave. They are there for anyone who is a victim, not just women
  • If you are a witness to domestic violence, maybe involving your parents or guardians, it can be very upsetting and confusing. If you are in a house where domestic violence is happening, talk to someone. It could be a friend or a family member who doesn’t live with you, but don’t go through it alone. If you don’t want to talk to someone you know, there are helplines that can offer you advice on how to help stop the violence and get help for the person being abused
  • If you or someone you know are in immediate danger from domestic violence, please call the police on 999 or ring your local police station and ask for the domestic violence support unit

ChildLine 0800 1111

Stonewall – Domestic violence

Brook – Abuse in relationships

NHS – Information on domestic violence and where you can get help

Live Fear Free

Dyn Wales – Support for men suffering from domestic violence

The Mix – domestic violence

You can call The Samaritans at any time for free on 116 123 to discuss any issues or problems you may have. You can also chat online with someone from Meic or call the helpline on 0808 80 23456.


Abuse can be a very difficult subject for people to talk about as it can be confusing and difficult to recognise that you are being abused. You might feel embarrassed or afraid to talk about it to anyone.

Please see a list at the bottom of the page of organisations and charities that can offer you support, advice and guidance if you are or have been abused.

Abuse can take many forms:

  • Sexual abuse is where someone is touching you, or asking or forcing you to do things sexually that you don’t want to do
  • Physical abuse is where someone is being violent towards you like punching or hitting you
  • Emotional abuse can be name-calling, threatening you or being cruel towards you
  • Neglect is another form of abuse which means not looking after you properly, like not providing enough to eat or failing to keep you safe from harm

Sadly the person abusing you might be one of your parents, another family member or relative, an older child, family friend or even someone claiming to be one of your friends. It could also be an adult that you come into contact with.

Sexual abuse can be very confusing because quite often it is someone that you know and trust:

  • They might try to make you think that what is happening isn’t wrong, that it is a special thing between you, a secret. They might give you presents, buy you things, take you out to places and give you lots of attention and compliments that make you feel good
  • They might tell you not to tell anyone or that people wouldn’t believe you if you told them what’s happening. They might threaten to hurt you or someone in your family if you tell anyone
  • They are saying or doing these things because they know what they are doing to you is wrong and they don’t want to be caught
  • By forcing you or making you do things sexually, they are abusing your trust in them and harming you

Being abused in any way can make you feel frightened, alone, confused, ashamed, embarrassed, guilty and angry.

Everyone has the right not to be abused and to be offered protection from abuse and there are people who can and will help you.

Deciding to tell someone and finding help is an important step to making the abuse stop. It can be a difficult thing to do especially with the way it can make you feel but it only takes a moment of bravery and courage to tell someone to help prevent you from being abused again.

Getting Help

Many people who are being abused worry that they will get into trouble or that their family won’t believe them if they told them what is happening. Remember, it is not your fault if you are being abused. You are in no way responsible for what is happening. There is always a way out of the problem and people you can talk to, you don’t have to keep it to yourself.

  • Choose someone you trust like a parent, a member of the family, a close friend or their parents, a teacher, a youth worker, doctor, your school nurse or a neighbour. If you find it difficult to talk about what’s happening, write them a letter and talk about it after they have read it
  • If you don’t want to tell anyone close to you, there are special organisations dedicated to helping young people who are being abused or to help people who know of someone being abused. These organisations are there to listen and help. They won’t be shocked by anything you say, won’t judge you and will let you tell them in your own way
  • Unless they are worried you are in serious danger, anything you say will be in strict confidence and no-one needs to know that you spoke to them
  • Sometimes if they think your safety is at risk, they might take action to protect you but this can only happen if they know who you are and where you live
  • The person from the organisation will talk through what will happen if you decide to take action. You might for example need to tell the police or a doctor what has happened. Don’t worry, these people are all trying to help you and you won’t be in any trouble
  • Some young people worry that they will be split up from their family if they share what is happening. This will only happen if you are in serious danger by staying at home. Social services will always try and keep a family together if they can

Coping With What Has Happened

After telling someone it is normal to feel relief but you might also feel a mixture of confusing emotions, feeling ashamed, embarrassed, guilty and angry by what has happened to you. It will take time for these feelings to pass and get better but you will feel better eventually.

It’s important to express these feelings in some way, whether you continue to get support by talking to someone or perhaps write about what has happened and how it makes you feel. There are some support groups you can go to and online forums there to help you come to terms with what has happened to you.

Unfortunately abuse is something that happens to many people and you are not alone. By stopping someone from abusing you and getting help you’ve shown courage and strength and this is something to be proud of.

Stonewall – Domestic violence

Brook – Abuse in relationships

Live Fear Free

NHS – Information on domestic violence and where you can get help

The Mix – domestic violence

You can call The Samaritans at any time for free on 116 123 to discuss any issues or problems you may have. You can also chat online with someone from Meic or call the helpline on 0808 80 23456.

Getting Help And Support

When things go wrong in your life, it is important that you don’t keep things to yourself. Talking to someone can help you feel better and it can also help with the problem.

Although your friends are great to talk to and confide in, they might not know how best to help you, especially with serious problems. Whether you are being bullied, discriminated against, abused or perhaps just experiencing a problem that you feel you can’t deal with on your own, there are people who will listen and offer you help and support.

  • If you feel comfortable, try talking to your mum or dad, older brother or sister, or close family member about what is bothering you. They might be able to give you advice and support and work with you to resolve the problem
  • Sometimes the problem might come from within your family so you might want to try talking to someone like a teacher, youth worker, doctor, a neighbour or a friend’s parent instead
  • If there is no-one you know who you want to talk to, there are special organisations that are there for you – please see the organisations listed on each page. They will offer confidential advice and support and are on-hand 24 hours a day in some cases. They have dealt with problems like yours before, so don’t feel embarrassed or ashamed – they only want to help you and will never judge you
  • Although most help lines are confidential, if the person you are talking to thinks you are in serious danger, they might decide that action needs to be taken. This will only be in extreme cases where your safety is at risk. If this happens, the person might ask you for your name and address so they can send someone to help you. Don’t be frightened – they are there for you and you are not in any trouble
  • People can only help if they know your name and where you are so if you don’t want anyone involved, they won’t be. However if the person you are talking to is worried about you, there is usually very good reason and you should listen to their advice
  • If the problem is something at home, many people worry that they will be split up from their family but this is very rare and will only happen if you are not safe at home

Keeping things to yourself will not make the problem go away and getting help is the first step to making things better. There is always someone who can help and there is no problem too big to solve with the right support