Staying safe online

  • You have the right to access and share information online as long as it isn’t harmful to you – or what you share isn’t harmful to others
  • You should be protected from seeing and hearing things that could be harmful to you online
  • If you see something upsetting or offensive online, you can report it to the police

Not just in Wales, but in the UK, everyone including children have the right to say or post what they like online. This has to be balanced with making sure that what is said or posted doesn’t stop other people enjoying their rights. There are laws about what shouldn’t be posted online – but although something upsets you or is harmful to you as a child, it might not break the law. Generally, there aren’t any ‘age restrictions’ on what is posted online, so once you are on the internet, you may end up seeing something that isn’t right for you – but this isn’t breaking the law.

Because there can be a difference between what is upsetting to you and what is breaking the law staying safe online also means that you, your parents and other people with responsibilities to protect you – like teachers or youth workers – have to think about how to use the internet so that it’s safe for you.

If someone is using the internet to try and harm you directly, there are laws to protect you, so you need to make sure you can recognise when someone might be behaving inappropriately online, and tell someone so that you can get help.

Staying safe online is also about making sure you keep your information safe online. Please go to My Information Online section to find out more.

How old do I have to be to use the internet?

There is no general rule about how old you have to be before you can use the internet. This is something your parents or the people who look after you may make a decision about. Social media platforms which use the internet to function usually have a minimum age before you can have an account (you can find out more about using social media here).

Does anything protect me from seeing stuff that I shouldn’t see when I am online?

Some websites and web pages are blocked because of what’s on them, so you won’t be able to see them. Some websites, such as alcohol related websites, ask you to confirm how old you are before you can go onto the website but they don’t have to. Websites with sexual content on them have to have strict age controls on them .

There are tools that you can use at home (often called ‘parental controls - your parents or the people who look after you can use them) to stop you accessing certain types of website too. This means you may not see anything harmful to you, but it can also block websites that aren’t harmful .

What can I do if I see something online that’s upsetting?

If you’re upset by something you see on social media, but it’s not specifically about you or targeting you, you can block the account of the person who posted it, and you can report it to the social media platform. Find out more here. If you see something that is specifically targeting you this could be cyber bullying. You can report this, and you can get help from someone in the ‘real’ world – an adult you can trust.

If you see something that you think is upsetting or offensive online and could be breaking the law, there are different organisations you can report it to. Internet Watch Foundation investigates anything that might be images of child sexual abuse (not just photos and videos but cartoons too).

If you see something that is offensive because it threatens people because of their race, religion or sexual orientation (or because it encourages others to threaten people for one of these reasons) then you can tell the police. You can find out which police force is responsible for your area using the Police website, or call 101. There is more information about reporting this kind of ‘hate crime’ on the True Vision website.

If you’ve seen something online that makes you think that someone has broken the law - may be you’ve seen a video posted by someone you know showing someone being beaten up – you can report this to the police.

If you see something that you think is about terrorism, there is information about how you can report it on the Government’s website.

What can I do if someone is asking me to do things that I don’t want to do online?

Although the internet can be a great way of making connections with other people, there are some people who use the internet to try and harm children and young people. This may happen through social media or in online chat rooms or gaming websites where you can talk to other people. It can especially be a problem where you can have ‘private’ chats with other people online, through direct messages or private chat rooms. You might be asked to take photos of yourself and send them to someone, or film yourself online. You might develop a friendship online with someone who then asks you to meet in real life. Sometimes this might be fine, but they may not be who they say they are.

If you are worried about anything that you are being asked to do while you’re online, or if someone is trying to meet with you, the safest thing to do is to tell someone you trust what is happening. You should do this even if you are worried that you will get into trouble for what has been going on. If someone is forcing you (or trying to force you) to do things, they are probably breaking the law.

Can someone be breaking the law online even if I am happy about it?

You might not be worried about what’s happening online – about something someone is asking you to do, or about a relationship that is developing, but the other person could still be breaking the law. If someone asks you to send a naked picture of yourself, they may be breaking the law. You might also be breaking the law too, for example if you are sending naked pictures of yourself to someone because of what’s in the image.

Can I get something about me taken off the internet?

If you send someone a picture or a video, or you share it online yourself, either on a website, Youtube or through social media, you can delete it from your account or from what you have in your control, but other people may already have shared it.

You can start by approaching the website or social media platform where you have seen the image and ask them to remove it. You can also ask search engines such as Google to stop the image being shown in search results.

If the image is of child sexual abuse, Internet Watch Foundation can help you get it removed.