There are lots of things you can do to help keep yourself safe from the threat of sexual exploitation.

It’s tempting, when you’re online, gaming or on your mobile, to think of everyone as a friend. However if you want to stay safe from child sexual exploitation it’s important that you treat people in the digital world with the same caution as you would strangers you meet on the street. 

That means being careful about what you tell them about yourself and not sharing photos or videos online that you wouldn’t want to be seen by others in everyday life. It also means being prepared for the fact that who they say they are – name, age, interests, background – might be different from who they really are.

Here are our top tips for keeping yourself safe online. 

 

Digital Dos

Do choose usernames and screen names carefully

Try to pick a username or screen name that you’ll remember but that doesn’t give anyone any information about your real name, age or address. 

Do be careful what you tell people

Your full name, address, mobile number and school are all things you should keep to yourself when talking to others online. It’s also good to say very little about what you do when you’re not online in case someone pieces together where you are and what you’re doing as this might help them find and approach you or your friends. 

Do remember that anything you send could be shared

Pictures, videos, texts – remember that anything you share with another person online could be shared without your permission or even stolen. So before you hit ‘send’ ask yourself if you’d be happy for other people to read or see your message. 

Do take care when using your mobile

Only give your number to people you’ve met in the real world. See if your phone has a privacy app that prevents your number from flashing up on other people’s phones when you call them. Switch off GPS or similar services so that people can’t tell where you are or where a photo was taken. 

Do be nice to other people online

Always treat others they way you would want to be treated. If you see anything mean or nasty being said about anyone, or hear of anyone being bullied or threatened, don’t join in – and don’t let anyone else pressure you into joining in.

Do ask an adult if you’re unsure

Something worrying you online? Don’t understand something you’ve read or are being asked to do, something that makes you feel nervous or scared? Talk to an adult you can trust.

 

Digital Don'ts

Don’t fill out online forms without checking where your information is going 

Some websites ask you for personal information then use it to send you unwanted adverts and offers. Others share your details with other companies so that they can get in touch with you. So always check a website’s privacy statement first. If you find it all a bit complicated ask an adult to help.

Don’t reply to mean or nasty messages 

If someone sends you a nasty message, or says something that makes you uncomfortable, just ignore it – then tell an adult you trust. They’ll help you report the message to the website and delete or block anyone if they keep on bothering you.

Don’t send photos or videos of others

Never send photos or videos of other people without getting their permission first. And remember, some photos and videos can get you into trouble. For example, taking and sending photos of children without clothes on is against the law. This is the case even if the pictures are of you and you are sending them to someone you know and trust. Visit thinkuknow.co.uk to find out more. 

Don’t expect everything you read to be true

It’s easy for people to tell lies online and for groups or companies to deliberately spread information that’s untrue. So always make sure that the website you’re getting your information from can be trusted. If in doubt, ask an adult. 

Don’t meet up without telling an adult first 

Meeting up with someone you only know online could put you at risk and isn’t a good idea. However if you do decide to meet, be sure to tell an adult first. Even better, ask them to go with you to the first meeting or to drop you off and wait with you so you can be sure that who you’re meeting is who they say they are. If your friend really is genuine they won’t have a problem with this.

Don’t forget to protect your technology too

Don’t let others use your phone, tablet or gaming device. Never share your password with anyone other than your parents or carers, not even your best friend. And don’t open emails from people you don’t know, especially those encouraging you to open attachments or click on links. They might contain a harmful virus or something that’s upsetting to see or watch.