Staying Safe online
When you're online it's important to stay safe and make sure you don't share things that could put you in danger. This advice will help you stay safe online.
Safeguarding measures one can take to minimize their chances of becoming a target of online harassment include:
- Check privacy settings on social networking sites and limit the amount of information you supply
- Google yourself frequently to check your digital footprint
- Use secure and unique passwords, check out our password tips here
- Be aware of geolocation and tagging on social networking sites, turning off location settings can help protect your privacy
- Keep your antivirus software up to date
- Cover your webcam when you are not using it
- If you receive an email from a stranger, think before clicking on a link or an attachment - it could contain a virus.
- If you believe that your smartphone or computer has been hacked or compromised, stop using it immediately and get advice from a repair shop.
- Be careful who you chat to, if somebody you don't know adds you as a friend, ignore them and delete their request.
- Don't share personal information like your address or phone number with somebody you don't know.
- Before entering private information such as passwords or payment details, look for the padlock symbol after the web address or 'https' in front of the web address in your browser
The University has set out guidance regarding use of social media guidance for University staff and students which can be found here.
Don't upload or share anything you wouldn't want your parents, co-workers, or friends seeing. Once you press send, it is no longer private. Anything you send can be shared with other people and you can't be sure who will end up seeing it.
Live streaming and apps like Snapchat can feel safer because they aren't permanent but anything you post online can be screenshotted and recorded and if that happens it's out of your control.
Used poorly, social media may cause serious and lasting damage to you and others: it could affect your friendships and ultimately your University career and the future.
It is important to be aware that the line between personal and professional can sometimes be blurred and the line between the private and public space can be equally blurry.
If you work for the University ensure you maintain professional boundaries in your use of social media. When you are on our campuses, you are accessing the internet via the University’s networks – please do not use these facilities inappropriately.
Remember, when you post on social media you are publishing material that you should consider public (even if it is part of a closed group), searchable, permanent and quotable. It is very easy to post something to the world in just one click. Social media is not a place to let off steam. Before posting something, take a moment to think:
“Would I say this to the person’s face?”
“What would I think if I saw this post on the internet?”
“How might my current/ future employer consider this?”
“How would I feel if someone posted this about me?”
“Could I be committing a criminal offence?”
“What would my family think?”
“How would I feel if someone read about me posting this in the media?”
Social media is a great way to keep in touch with friends, find out what's happening and share things about your life. When you're using social media, it can help to remember:
- You don't see everything: You might feel like people are all having a good time when you're not, but people don't always post their true feelings online or share when things aren't so good.
- What you see isn't the same as real life: Lots of pictures you see online have been staged, planned or edited to look as good as possible, just because something is online doesn't mean it's real.
- Take breaks: If looking at social media is making you feel worse, take a break and do something else for 10 minutes before you let yourself check it again.
- Obsessive behaviour: There is no shame in a Social Media detox to stop it taking over your life and distracting you too much from your work. There are lots of apps available to help, some features are inbuilt in phones to limit app time and others are available from app stores like Forest app, the newsfeed blocker, or StrictWorkFlow.
There are lots of great sites, apps and communities to join or browse through. But there's also a lot online with content you might not be expecting or find upsetting.
Online communities can be great for getting help with lots of different things. But sometimes it’s hard to know if an online community is making things better or worse.
However, harmful online communities can change the way you see life – even if you don’t want that to happen. It can also trigger thoughts and emotions. For example, looking at a ‘pro-ana’ website might make people think they are overweight even if they're a good, healthy weight.
Ask yourself: “is a community really trying to help me or is it making things worse?” If you’re part of an online community that is negative or harmful, it is okay to leave. You have control over the websites you visit. Don’t feel guilty about going to a more positive community instead. You could try the student room for message boards, where young people talk about their experiences and support each other with what they’re going through.
Facts about sexting
- Images sent on sites like Snapchat can still be saved and screenshotted.
- It’s not okay for someone to pressure you into sending a nude.
- Sending, receiving or storing a nude when of someone under 18 is against the law.
- Not everyone in a relationship will share nudes.
- If something goes wrong, there’s support to help.
There are lots of reasons you might want to send a nude. But if you’re not sure whether you should or you’re being pressured by friends, it can help to talk to someone you trust about what’s happened.
Sharing nudes, dick pics, videos or sexual messages with someone who doesn’t consent to receive them isn’t okay and it can be against the law.
- If you’ve shared a message or picture with someone who doesn’t want it:
- Apologise about what you’ve sent
- Stop contacting the person if they don’t want you to talk to them
- Don’t pressure the person to send images or messages back
- Talk to someone you trust about what happened
Find out more about what should happen in a healthy relationship from Brook.
If you’ve sent a nude and you’re worried about what might happen, there are things you can do:
- Ask for the message to be deleted: Explain that you’re not comfortable with them keeping the picture and ask them to delete it.
- Don’t reply to threats: if someone is trying to threaten or blackmail you don’t send more photos. It can be scary, but it can help you to keep in control.
- Talk to someone you trust: Talking can be scary, especially if you’re being threatened but it can also help you get support and stay in control
- If something goes wrong: having a nude shared by other people without your consent is against the law and it isn’t your fault. If you’re struggling to cope or you don’t know what to do, talk to the Revenge Pornography Helpline.
Revenge porn is when someone shares a sexual video or photo of you without your consent. It’s illegal for someone to do this, and there are ways to get support. If someone’s threatening you or has shared an image or photo of you online, there are things you can do:
- Report it: If you’re over 18 you can get support from the Revenge Porn Helpline. Take screenshots of anything you’re sent as evidence.
- Don’t respond to messages, comments, or threats: It can be natural to panic when you see something posted about you or someone threatens you. But don’t respond to threatening messages or comments.
- Talk about it: It might be scary talking about what’s happening, but you’ve not done anything wrong. If you can’t talk to an adult you trust, try talking to a counsellor who is specifically trained in sexual abuse cases through http://www.devonrapecrisis.org.uk/
- Take a break: Let out how you’re feeling by using the self-help tools on the wellbeing website like SilverCloud, talking to someone you trust, or doing a hobby you enjoy.