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Staying safe on social media

Updated: Nov 16, 2023

We are part of a 24/7 digital world and whilst this can open fantastic opportunities for making friends and staying connected, it can also introduce additional pressures and worry. Too many young people feel they must tackle online harassment and abuse alone so it’s important to take steps to stay safe and know how to seek help if you have concerns.

All social media profiles should give you the option to make your profile public (visible to anyone) or private (only visible to known contacts). Private profiles give you the most control over who can see your content and engage with you online but either way, if you experience unwanted messages, there are steps you can take to block contact from certain accounts. All the major social media platforms (Facebook, X, Instagram, Snapchat, Tiktok…) will have block functions that disable users from communicating with you through direct messages, comments, follows or likes. Often these users won’t know or realise when someone has blocked them and full instructions for blocking contacts on each social platform can be found below:

If you are still feeling unsafe using a particular app or profile, you can also consider temporarily deactivating your social media accounts so that no one can find you. On most apps this action is reversible and you can reactivate profiles at a later date, or set up a new account, when you feel ready to do so. Other steps such as setting a generic profile photo or changing your account name to reduce the visibility of your profiles can also make them harder to identify on contact lists.

Reporting online abuse or harassment

Online abuse and harassment is a criminal offence so if anything you’ve experienced online has made you feel unsafe, you can report it. It is advisable to keep a timeline or screenshot any messages or content that you wish to report as this can be used to evidence users have breached platform guidelines. The CEOP Safety Centre is one of the main providers for supporting young people with negative behaviour online and a Child Protection Advisor can support you to keep safe online in future and/or help you speak to parents/guardians about what has happened.

Intimate image abuse

Intimate image abuse is a criminal offence and can be reported to the police in person, by calling 101 or online. If you are worried that private images sent to one of your contacts have been leaked/shared online, Childline offer direct and confidential support to young people under 18 to get explicit images of themselves removed from the web. This is an excellent resource if you do not want to speak to the police or anyone else about it.  Over 18’s can access confidential and non-judgemental support through the Revenge Porn Helpline who offer both practical assistance and emotional support to victims.

If you identify with any of the issues in this article and would like further help to access support, IAF are here for you! Speak to your mentor or Team Leader about any challenges you may be facing and we will be able to signpost you to specialist support and resources on the IAF Hub.

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