Online Safety

Many people use Facebook, Twitter or other social media sites to keep in touch with friends and family online. Talking to people online that you know is something that we all do, however people that you don’t know can also use social media to become your “friend”. You may feel the pressure of having lots of “friends” online, however it’s easy for someone to pretend to be someone else on the internet and you could end up having conversations on social media, with people who aren’t who they say they are.

Being online makes it easy for people to lie and pretend to be someone else. Some people use social media to make contact with children and young people with the intention of “grooming” them. To groom someone is to prepare someone to do something sexual for the benefit of the person making contact. 

Groomers might try to gain your trust by using a fake profile picture and by pretending to have similar interests as you. They might pretend to be your age and have similar interests to you.

People who try to groom children and young people want you to believe their lies so that they can get information about you:

  • your age
  • where you live
  • who else might use the computer that you use or
  • who else has access to your mobile phone

Once they have lots of information about you and have got your trust and friendship, they often move conversations towards sexual experiences and interests, even asking you to send sexual photographs or videos of yourself.

Some might move towards wanting to meet up, others might try to blackmail you by threatening to share any images/pictures or videos you might have sent them already with your friends and family, if you don’t carry on doing what they ask you to do.

Online grooming can take place via chat rooms, instant messaging (IM), social networking sites and email and can involve you:

  • Being asked to chat about sex online
  • Being asked to do sexual things on webcam
  • Being asked to share naked or sexual pictures of yourself
  • Being asked to look at, or watch pictures or videos of others doing sexual things
  • Being exposed to online pornography
  • Or being asked to watch the person you are speaking with do sexual things, such as exposing themselves
  • Being asked to meet up face to face with the person you have been speaking to online.

Who could be doing this?

People who groom others online can be men or women, any age and from any cultural background.  Children and young people can be groomed by strangers or by people they know, including friends and members of their family.  You might believe that the person, who is doing the grooming, really cares about you and is your boyfriend or girlfriend.

Generally if we are careful online, we really do know who we are in contact with,  but here are some possible signs to consider that might suggest that all is not ok and the person you are in contact with might not be who you think they are.

Signs to look out for and things to think about

  • Attention & flattery - someone you don’t know other than online, says lots of really nice things about you and how you look on your profile page. If someone starts doing this ask yourself – what do they really want?
  • Sexy talk – someone talking sexy or ‘dirty’ with you; about what sexual things that they might like you to do, or that they might say they would like to do to or with you. Be careful if someone is very flirty with you or tries to get you to talk about sex or look at pornography – ask yourself, why are they doing this?
  • Private chats – the person you have been talking to might ask you to start having private chat so that no-one else can see what you are talking about. If someone asks you to do this, ask yourself why do they need to talk privately with you?

  • Sexy pictures – You might be told everyone does it, but ask yourself why do they really want a picture or film of me? What will they do with it? Will they share it with someone I don’t know? Remember if you share a photo via the internet it can be shared with anyone without your knowledge or permission. If you are unsure don’t press send!  Pictures and film can be used to threaten you and make you send more pictures or do other things that you are uncomfortable with. Don’t share anything you wouldn’t want your friends and family to see.

  • Secrets – If someone online asks you to keep secrets, think about why they would want you to do this? If it is because they don’t want other people knowing about them being in contact with you, ask yourself why? Real friends wouldn’t mind your parents /carers knowing that you are chatting to them.

 If you see something online that makes you feel uncomfortable or worried, or if someone asks you to do something that makes you feel the same, leave the website or stop the chat immediately and tell an adult you trust. This can be a parent, carer, relative, teacher.

See our tips for staying safe online.

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