Social Networks

Social networks are ways of bringing people together using technology to informally (‘socially’) communicate (‘network’). There are loads of social networks out there and you should be a certain age to use some of them.

Lots of social networks have privacy settings which are tools that you can use to help control who sees the information that you share online. Most social networks also have ‘report abuse’ and ‘block’ tools to help you take control of how others behave towards you.

Any information you share online like photos, videos or comments can stay online for a very long time. When you share something online other people can copy it which means that they then have control of it. This means that even if you delete something you’ve shared, someone else might have it.

Reporting and blocking

If you’re using social networks find out how you can report and block people. If someone is doing or saying something that you don’t like or if they’re making you feel scared or uncomfortable, it’s up to you what you do depending on how you feel, but you can report them online, save the evidence, block them and tell an adult you trust.

Remember that you can choose your online and offline friends. If you don’t want to be friends with someone online anymore, remove them from your social networks.

Online friends

Offline the world is filled with a whole range of people some of them nice, some of them mean, some of them just plain dangerous. Online it’s just the same so it’s smart to be careful when choosing your online friends.

Keeping secrets can be fun but some secrets can be dangerous. If a stranger or a friend you have only met online asks you to keep a secret then you need to tell an adult you trust straight away because they might not be who they say they are. People who respect you will never ask you to keep secrets from other people who are close to you like your friends and family.

Sharing information

Technology means that the things we share online can be seen by lots of people. Information can also be shared really quickly. It’s always smart to think before you post. Ask yourself what could happen if other people like your family or your teachers saw what you were sharing online.

General things to think about for you and your family

Use the tools available to keep your family and your devices safer

Set up parental controls. Some systems have them built in and are free, others you can pay for. You may want to look at several options and decide what’s best for your family.
Keep your technology (including phones) up to date with security software.
Use strong passwords that include letters, numbers and symbols and use different passwords for different accounts.
If you’re using social networks, check out the privacy settings and make sure they are activated.
Report online abuse.

Be careful of what you share online

Read the terms and conditions for social networks. There might be a lot there to read but you could be agreeing to hand over control of your online content if you don’t.
Never share personal information like phone numbers or email addresses online.
Be cautious about the type of information you might be sharing with people you only know online.
Be careful about the types of images you post and share as once they are out there you’ve pretty much lost control of that content.
Use webcams carefully. If you’re talking with people you know and trust offline you may be confident, but remember that webcam ‘conversations’ can always be recorded.

Create a great online reputation

Our children learn things from us so how we as adults behave online affects how our children behave. In terms of your own online reputation, nearly all of the advice for children is relevant for adults.

Search for yourself and members of your family online. This will help you manage what information is available about you in the public domain.
Treat others online as you would like to be treated.
Delete old accounts that you’re no longer using.
Be careful what you share.
Know who you’re sharing information with.
Understand that whatever you share online you might lose control of.
Always report abuse.

General family online safety advice

For general online safety advice we recommend a trip to Get Safe Online.

Staying safer in social networks

  • Use privacy settings – they’re there to protect you not restrict you. A guide to setting your privacy settings has been published by ParentInfo
  • Some websites ask you to use your real name but you may be able to choose a username too. Use a nickname if you can.
  • Avoid using a picture of yourself for your profile – use a picture of something you like instead.
  • Don’t include personal details in your profile, like your phone number, your email address or home address.
  • Read the small print. For lots of social networks you have to sign up certain things, and some of those things could include rights to share what you’re posting online. Know what you’re signing up for.
  • Don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know offline. If you are going to accept them, be very careful about what information you share with them.
  • Find out how you can report people on the websites you’re using.
  • Block someone if they are being mean or sending you things you don’t like.
  • Only ever speak with someone on a webcam if you know and trust them offline.
  • Remember that what someone does on a webcam can be recorded.
  • Say no to things you don’t want to do. If you don’t want to go on a webcam you don’t have to. If someone is cool they’ll respect that.
  • Listen to yourself. If a person or situation online doesn’t feel right trust your instincts and speak to someone offline who you trust for advice and help.
  • To find out more about staying safe in social networks check out Think You Know and Childline.

The following parental control checklists have been created by the South West Grid for Learning…

Click on the following logos to access the safety/support areas for each social network.



Sextortion is a form of revenge porn that employs non-physical forms of coercion to extort sexual favours from the victim.

You can also get help from:

What to do if you’re a victim of sextortion

If someone threatens to share explicit images of you unless you pay them money:

  1. Dont panic. Contact your local police and internet service provider immedaitely. The police will take your case seriously, will deal with it in confidence and will not judge you for being in this situation.
  2. Don’t communicate further with the criminals. Take screen shots of all your communication. Suspend your Facebook account (but don’t delete it) and use the online reporting process to report the matter to Skype, YouTube etc. to have any video blocked and to set up an alert in case the video resurfaces. Deactivating the Facebook account temporarily rather than shutting it down will mean the data are preserved and will help police to collect evidence. The account can also be reactivated at any time so your online memories are not lost forever. Also, keep an eye on all the accounts which you might have linked in case the criminals try to contact you via one of those.
  3. Don’t pay. Many victims who have paid have continued to get more demands for higher amounts of money. In some cases, even when the demands have been met the offenders will still go on to post the explicit videos. If you have already paid, check to see if the money has been collected. If it has, and if you are able, then make a note of where it was collected from. If it hasn’t, then you can cancel the payment – and the sooner you do that the better.
  4. Preserve evidence. Make a note of all details provided by the offenders, for example; the Skype name (particularly the Skype ID), the Facebook URL; the Western Union or MoneyGram Money Transfer Control Number (MTCN); any photos/videos that were sent, etc. Be aware that the scammer’s Skype name is different to their Skype ID, and it’s the ID details that police will need. To get that, right click on their profile, select ‘View Profile’ and then look for the name shown in blue rather than the one above it in black. It’ll be next to the word ’Skype’ and will have no spaces in it. DO NOT DELETE ANY CORRESPONDENCE.

Sending nudes

Sending nudes, or sexting are the words used to describe the sharing of personal sexual content electronically (Youth Produced Sexual Imagery). The word is a combination of ‘sex’ and ‘texting’.

Why do people sext?

Sexting is usually deliberate (i.e. people choose to do it) and is often when someone takes an intimate or sexually explicit image of themselves and sends it to another person (for example a boyfriend or girlfriend). Although it’s completely natural for young people to want to explore their own sexual identity and their relationships, sexting can be really risky and have very serious consequences.

Sexting and the law

If anyone under the age of 18 is sexting (i.e. sending indecent images of themselves), they’re also breaking the law. You can find out more about sexting and the law on the Think You Know website but in brief it’s a criminal offence to:

  • TAKE an indecent image of someone under the age of 18 (which includes someone taking an image of themselves).
  • MAKE an indecent image of someone under 18 (i.e. copy it or save it to another device).
  • SEND an indecent image of someone 18 to another person.
  • ASK someone under 18 to take an indecent image of themselves.
  • HAVE an indecent image of someone under 18.

As a parent a good thing to remember about the law is that it is there to protect young people from harm and from being exploited and it’s not designed to punish them for making genuine mistakes.That said, every case is different and is always dealt with based on the circumstances and facts involved.

The Childline website has some great information for children and young people about sexting but it’s a good read for parents too.There are a number of resources for children and parents on sexting and we would always recommend that people search online and speak with others to find good quality information themselves. We think that these resources are also really helpful:

Sexting for parents by the NSPCC
So you got naked online… by the South West Grid for Learning

Talking with your child about sexting

Talking about sex isn’t always easy. Like lots of things though it’s better to talk about a subject before anything happens.Many children and young people don’t fully understand the laws about sexting or some of the consequences. One way to have the conversation at home is to watch and then talk about Exposed (short film) by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre.


Peer pressure can be powerful stuff so Childnet has also created the Zipit App to help children and young people keep flirty chat on the right track.

Online sexual chat

If someone is making your child feel uncomfortable about sex you can report them to CEOP. This might be someone:

chatting online with your child about sex
asking your child to do sexual things on a webcam
asking your child to send sexual images of themselves
trying to get your child to meet up with them offline
If this is happening make a report to CEOP. You can also contact Devon and Cornwall Police on telephone 101 (non emergency calls) or 999 (emergency calls only).

What is CEOP?

CEOP is the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Team within the National Crime Agency. They exist to help children and young people who are being approached online about sex or being sexually abused.

Parental controls

Parental controls are tools that can be used to filter, control and monitor internet activity. Parental controls are one tool that can be used and having them doesn’t mean that regular chats around online activity shouldn’t take place.

Parental controls won’t protect children from issues like cyber bullying, losing control over pictures/videos that they’ve shared or getting a bad online reputation.

Parental controls can be put on televisions, computers, gaming devices and mobile devices like tablets and phones. If you’re not sure how to use (or if you even have) parental controls, contact your service provider and ask them. Not all parental controls are free of charge so you may want to check that out.

Activating parental controls

Internet has produced guides to setting up parental controls across a number of platforms. You can find out more by clicking the image.

The following parental control checklists have been created by the South West Grid for Learning…

We’ve been surfing the web to look at a number of websites for companies that provide internet services and find their ‘parental control’ pages. If you’re with one of the following service providers, please visit their website to find out what service is available to you.

Online Gaming

Many gaming devices now mean that children and young people can play online against people they know and people they don’t know (which can include adults). As well as just playing games together people can also interact in other ways. It’s important to make sure that games are suitable for their age and that children understand how they can stay safer.

Online gaming things to think about

  • Does my child’s gaming device have parental controls that I can use?
  • Who is my child interacting with? Are they adults or children?
  • If my child is playing games online with strangers, what types of things can we both do to help make that experience safer?
  • What type of language are people using in the games and is it appropriate for my child?
  • Does my child understand the risks of sharing personal information (e.g. name, email address, phone number) when gaming?
  • Does my child know what to do if they are being bullied by another player?
  • Does my child know what to do if another player does something to make them feel uncomfortable or frightened?
  • What type of content is my child viewing?

Online gaming things to talk about

If you don’t play online games you might not be sure how to talk about gaming with your child but there are some things you can ask them like:

  • What type of games do you like most? (for example Action, Fantasy, Adventure, Fighting, Racing etc).
  • Can you choose the type of character you play in the game?
  • What are the characters like?
  • What types of things can you do in the game?
  • What types of people can you meet in the game?
  • What types of things do people like to talk about?
  • If someone is being a bully or making you feel uncomfortable, how can you report them in the game?
  • Can I have a game with you? (Having a go on the game is a pretty good way to learn, you might have fun but you should probably expect to lose!).

How old?

The PEGI system gives age ratings to products to help adults decide if a game is suitable for their child. As well as age ratings, products feature ‘descriptors’ which show why a product has received a certain age rating. For example this might be because it contains violence (including sexual violence), discrimination, depictions of alcohol and drugs, or bad language.


The following links provide safety support and guidance for their respective consoles and devices.

Cyber Bullying

When a bully uses the internet as a tool to abuse someone, this is known as cyber bullying or online bullying. As a parent, guardian or carer it doesn’t matter if you don’t understand internet technology, you can still help your child if they are being bullied online.

Blame the Bully, not the technology

Bullies cause cyber bullying and the internet and technology are tools that they use to help make that happen. Taking away your child’s access to the internet won’t necessarily solve the problem. That said, your child may wish to stop using social networks or other things for a while and all of that will need to be talked about and agreed by you and your child together.

Consider if and how you will respond to the bully

Bullies want a reaction of any kind so we suggest to children and young people that they don’t respond at all to online bullies but to report them and block them instead, and to talk to someone they can trust about it. You may want to respond to the bully. If that’s the case, do this when you have had time to consider what your want to say calmly and carefully.
You may want to explain to the bully that you’re now aware of what’s been going on, have saved the evidence of the bullying and have/or are going to report them to the website or social network they have been using, their school (if they are a child and you know them), their parents (if you know them) or the police if you think what’s happening is serious enough.

Save the evidence

Save the bullying if possible for evidence. This could include saving text messages or keeping a record of what’s been happening online. If the bullying is happening online but you can’t save it due to the system that’s been used you can use something called ‘print screen’ or ‘screen capture’ to copy information into a document and save that separately as evidence. If you’re not sure how to do this you can search for instructions online.

Use Reporting Facilities

Many social networks allow users to ‘report abuse’ and ‘block’ users. As a parent, guardian or carer you may want to encourage your child to find out (if they don’t already know) how they can report someone online so that they feel confident to do it if they need to. It’s also important for children to understand the need to report people for cyber bullying before they ‘block them’ so that action can be taken.

Get your school involved

If you think your child is being bullied online by someone from their school contact the school. Individual schools will have their own policies on bullying / cyber bullying. Whatever the policy if your child is being bullied by someone from their school or someone they don’t know, they may need support of some kind during school hours.

If the bully is from your child’s school that may need some support too so by making a report, you can help. Although each case is different, generally schools should make it very clear what their approach is to bullying (including online bullying).

The following parental control checklists have been created by the South West Grid for Learning…

Keep talking

Any form of bullying can make a child feel alone. Cyber bullying can happen day and night, on school days and weekends. This can be not only upsetting but really tiring. Keep talking with your child to reassure them and let them know that they are not to blame.

When to contact the police

If you think that the level of bullying is serious and that your child is at risk of harm telephone Devon and Cornwall Police on 101 and ask to speak with your local Police Community Support Officer or Youth Intervention Officer. In an emergency always telephone 999.
Like the offline environment there are laws in the UK that apply online. Although each case is different, cyber bullies shouldn’t be surprised to receive a visit from the police if what they have been doing has resulted in a criminal offence. You can find out more about the law at GOV.UK.