Staying safe online

Internet safety tips to keep you and your data protected

Online safety for Longitude Explorer finalists

Get your team members thinking how to stay safe online while participating in online webinars and workshops

The internet is a great (and now, very necessary) way to keep in touch, share thoughts and ideas and much, much more. But to stay safe online (and off), there’s a few things we need to think about. As a Team Champion, you have a responsibility to keep your team members safe while they are working online.


When we’re online, we need to make lots of choices and give other people the chance to make a choice for themselves. One way of doing this is by asking for and giving permission, which can also be called consent. There are several aspects to this, which your team members need to consider:

  • Safety – Do you know where to go for help, where to find safety advice and how to use safety tools on your favourite apps and games? What is okay/not okay to share online? Why?
  • Sharing online – How many things can we share online? What do we like to share online? What should we not share? What should we do before sharing things?
  • Managing privacy and data online – Who owns content online? What is copyright and how can I use and share work? What does the internet know?

Using social media

Using social media can be a great way to promote your team. However, it’s important for team members to think carefully about what information they disclose on their profile page. Here, we cover guidance on using social media to promote your team and its idea, and on supporting young members to use social media safely.

When posting content, encourage them to consider if:

  • it is suitable for others to see
  • the message could be misinterpreted
  • it is offensive
  • it could be considered a form of bullying.

Remind members that what they post online may be viewed by their school, prospective college or uni. If they are unsure, advise them to ask another person to check the post.

Accepting, talking too and meeting online friends

Team members may be contacted on social media by people they don’t know, and some may request to add them as a ‘friend’ or ‘contact’. Emphasise to team members that they should only accept people they actually know as friends, and remind them that they can always block or delete a contact if necessary.

Ensure that young people are aware that people they meet online are strangers and they should not:

  • meet up with them
  • provide them with any personal details – such as their address, telephone number or school name
  • ask for the stranger’s personal details.


Private/direct messaging

Many social networking sites give users the option to send private messages or direct messages (DMs) to other users.

Remind team members not to respond to private inbox messages unless they actually know the sender. If they do receive a private inbox message from someone they don’t know and decide they would like to reply, they should make a trusted adult aware of this communication.

Passwords and privacy settings

Tell the young people you’re working with to keep their login details and passwords safe and secure. They should not share this information with anyone else.

Privacy settings – which allow users to control who sees their posts and information – will vary between different social networking sites. Members should check their settings regularly for each of the sites they use, to make sure they reflect exactly what they do (and don’t) want their contacts to see.

Age restrictions

Many social networking sites have minimum age requirements for joining. Please ensure that team members are aware of this. Sometimes, young people will use social networking sites at a younger age than is recommended, so we must offer them a safe space to talk about their online interactions.

Risk and issues online

Nowadays, young people are very familiar with how to live their lives online. They may be less familiar, however, with the potential risks. 

Adverts and spam

Advise team members that spam – irrelevant or unsolicited messages or emails – and adverts which encourage them to visit other websites can actually mask computer viruses. Young people can use their computer’s security features – such as firewalls, anti-spyware or antivirus software – to manage these threats, so encourage them to speak to their parent or carer for support. They can also use pop-up blockers – plugins for browsers that you can download – to stop ads appearing.


Cyberbullying can occur via email, social networking and gaming sites, online chat or text message. If a team member has received a threatening or abusive message, encourage them to:

  • refrain from responding
  • save the messages and keep a copy – they can copy and paste the content, or use ‘Print Screen’ or a ‘screen shot’
  • show a trusted adult.

Ensure young people are aware that when chatting online:

  • most services allow you to block and report users
  • they can leave or log out of a website if they are not happy with what they are seeing
  • on social networking sites, they can temporarily deactivate their account if necessary.

If the abuse is happening through texts and phone calls, advise them not to respond or answer calls from a withheld number. They can bar a specific number from calling them if they need to by contacting their mobile network provider.

It’s important to encourage team members to tell a trusted adult if they feel they are experiencing cyberbullying. Attempting to deal with the situation alone may cause them personal distress and things may escalate without help.

You can also reassure team members experiencing cyberbullying that it’s not their fault. If they feel they can’t tell anyone about what’s happening, encourage them to call ChildLine on 0800 1111 for support and advice.


Sexting refers to making or sending self-generated inappropriate or explicit material (including photos) of a sexual nature.

  • Remind team members that photos are easy to forward, copy, edit and post online without their knowledge or consent.
  • Make them aware of the consequences of sexting, should this material be shared outside of the intended recipient.
  • Let them know how they can get support if any material that is shared upsets them.
  • Try to provide guidance so that young members can make an informed choice about how they share and distribute photos.

Unwanted images

Team members may see or receive an unwanted image online, or have an image of them shared without their consent.

Make sure to encourage them to tell a trusted adult as soon as possible if this happens, and reassure them that it is not their fault. You can contact the website or service where they received this communication, such as Facebook, to have an image removed. If you feel it is necessary, you can also report the communication to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) through its online reporting form.

Viewing adult content

Young people may come across adult material of a sexual nature online. Adult material circulated online is increasingly violent and also creates an expectation for young people to perform or look a certain way. It is important to educate young members about real sex and relationships and challenge these online representations. 


Team members should be very cautious when using webcams and only do so with people they actually know and see in everyday life, such as friends or family. It is important to make young members aware that when they use a webcam the image can be recorded, copied and shared without them knowing.

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