Everybody deserves to feel safe online. Feeling safe online means different things to different people, but in general online safety looks like:
Sometimes, things happen online that don’t feel safe. You might get a text or message or end up on a webpage where something feels off. It’s important to have someone you can talk to to help you make wise choices. That might be a parent or caregiver, trusted adult, teacher or counselor, neighbor, or good friend. You can also educate yourself about online safety so that you can be a good friend to others. We’ll share some tips below for how to navigate online safety, and for how to be a good friend.
One final note: Sometimes it can feel really exciting when you’re a young person to have an older teenager or adult want to be your friend. It can make you feel special, and it’s cool to have someone older think of you as a “peer.” And we don’t want you feeling scared or unsafe online — we want you feeling empowered and like you know how to take care of yourself. One way you can take care of yourself is by being cautious about making friends with adults online.
It’s one thing to add your aunt or best friend’s parents who are besties with your parents too. And youth do need mentors, but those are best met in person through school or community connections. It can be riskier to connect with random adults online, and it’s not typical or normal for adults to want to be friends with children like they are with other adults. Talk to your parents or other trusted people in your life about ways to make safer decisions when making friends online.
This video from AMAZE features a scenario of sending nude photos via text, or sexting. It covers the potential consequences of sending nude photos, such as the photos being shared with others or posted on the Internet. It also covers the legal consequences of having nude photos – in some states, it is considered child sexual abuse materials or sexual harassment, both of which are illegal. The video emphasizes that while feeling attracted to someone is totally normal, there are more respectful ways to show someone you like them.
The line between healthy and unhealthy relationships can get confusing once a relationship goes online. It’s not always clear what your digital relationship should look like, and different people may decide on different terms for their own arrangements. This resource from Love Is Respect offers guidance for high-school aged youth.
Many of our online actions take place from our phones. Like computers, cell phones may be monitored remotely to provide instant updates on your whereabouts, habits, or activities to others, including access to call logs and text history. This resource from Love Is Respect offers guidance.
People often assume physical violence when they hear about abuse, but that’s not always the case. Dating abuse is a pattern of behaviors used to gain or maintain power and control over a partner — physical violence is just one example of such behavior. This resource from Love Is Respect offers helpful information.
From apps to online dating websites, there are many ways people are connecting online. Although you aren’t talking face-to-face with someone, consent still needs to be communicated along the way. You should always consider how your actions might make another person feel and ask questions if you don’t know. Learn more from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.
This video from AMAZE has a trigger warning for sensitive content of sexual exploitation and trafficking. The video recognizes that information might feel overwhelming and difficult to process, but it is important to remember that it could be happening to someone you know and to focus on supporting survivors. It includes a definition of sex trafficking and grooming, as well as examples of how traffickers might lie, manipulate, and threaten victims.
Get help if someone is pressuring you to do sexual activities or send images in exchange for safety, food, money, or housing.
*Note that in most states, adults who learn that someone under the age of 18 is being abused, they are required to report it to either a child welfare office or to law enforcement. If you are worried about that, when you call you can ask them to explain what they are required to report before sharing more about your situation.