Everyone has a right to be safe on and offline – no matter what information has been shared by you or by others about you. We’ve pulled together a few useful links on staying safe online when it comes to sexual exploitation and abuse.
If you are in immediate danger or worried about someone who is, contact 911 or your local emergency services.
- Keep your identity safe – Don’t post any personal information online – like your address, email or phone number.
- Never give out your passwords.
- Think about what you post: Use privacy settings to control who can see your posts, and think carefully before posting pictures or videos of yourself. Once you’ve put a picture of yourself online most people can see it and may be able to share and download it.
- Don’t friend people you don’t know. People are not always who they say they are. Predators may pretend to be children or teenagers. They might use a fake profile picture and add other profile details to appear more convincing.
- Read between the lines: If someone is flattering you online, be careful. Although many people online are genuinely nice, others act nice because they are trying to get something from you. Flattering messages may be more about manipulation than friendship or romance. This doesn’t mean you need to be suspicious of everyone, but it’s not a bad idea to be careful.
- Don’t give in to pressure: people and relationships change, and unexpected stuff can happen on the internet; once you’ve pressed send, you can’t take it back. Think twice before responding.If someone threatens to share private pics or videos of you, it can be terrifying. Try to take a step back and remember there are people and resources who can help you navigate these situations, you are not alone.
- Respect other people’s views, even if you don’t agree with someone else’s views, it doesn’t mean you need to be rude. If someone’s mean to you, try not to react, definitely don’t retaliate, and talk to a trusted person or a friend who can help. Use privacy tools to block the bullies.
- Try to avoid in-person meetings with strangers, but if you really must meet an internet friend, don’t go alone, tell someone where and when you are going and arrange to call that person if you need help.
- Know who can help: Platforms have a responsibility to protect the people who use them, understand how to report to service providers, and use blocking and deleting tools. If something happens that upsets you online, it’s never too late to tell someone.
- Tell a parent, trusted adult, or friend if you encounter a problem. If anyone makes you feel uncomfortable online, you should tell someone immediately, do not try to fix the issue alone. If you don’t feel you can tell an adult, tell a close friend who can help you sort out the problem.
- If a friend tells you that they are worried about online abuse encourage them to reach out to a trusted adult – you could even go with them to help them do this
To find out more about online grooming, the signs, and what to do if you are being groomed visit Childline.
Reporting harmful content or abuse
If you have stumbled across images online that show a child or young person being sexually abused you can contact the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) at www.iwf.org.uk.
If you are concerned about online enticement of children for sexual acts, extra-familial child sexual molestation, child pornography, child sex tourism, child sex trafficking, unsolicited obscene materials sent to a child, misleading domain names, and misleading words or digital images on the internet you can report it via NCMEC’s CyberTip Line in the United States.
If you need guidance on how to remove sexual images or content from the internet, explore Need Help Now’s resource which has step-by-step instructions for removal and reporting on various platforms.
If you haven’t found what you are looking for, Marie Collins Foundation has a comprehensive list of resources around child sexual abuse online