Using social media safely with children and young people
There are lots of benefits for children and young people when using social media. This includes staying connected with friends and family, enabling innovative ways of learning and creating new ways for them to express themselves.
It can also have many benefits to organisations, for example:
- staying in contact with children outside of face-to-face meetings, activities and events
- providing specialist support to children, such as counselling and therapy
- promoting events
- livestreaming activities
- creating online groups, forums and communities.
But there are risks when you’re using social media to communicate with children.
Children may be exposed to upsetting or inappropriate content online, particularly if the platform you’re using doesn’t have robust privacy and security settings or if you’re not checking posts. This content might be sexually explicit or it might be harmful in other ways, such as radicalisation, bullying, or content that's upsetting.
Children may be at risk of being groomed if they have an online profile that means they can be contacted privately.
Children’s posts or profile information may expose personal information and put them at risk. For example, they may talk about their home life, feelings, or thoughts they’ve been having. There may be information that makes them identifiable such as locations of events they are taking part in or visual clues in photographs. Perpetrators may use this information to groom, abuse or exploit children.
Perpetrators of abuse may create fake profiles to try to contact children and young people through the platform you’re using, for example an adult posing as a child. They may also create anonymous accounts and engage in cyberbullying or trolling. People known to a child can also perpetrate abuse.
On many platforms, children can be contacted anywhere and at any time through private messaging or notification alerts. This means it’s harder for them to escape from abusive messages or upsetting content that they are tagged in.
Putting measures in place
It’s important for organisations and groups to put safeguarding measures in place if they are communicating with children online.
This page provides information on:
- safeguarding policies and procedures
- appropriate language and behaviour
- privacy and consent
- setting up and managing online forums and communities safely
- livestreaming safely.
Social media in schools
If you work or volunteer in a school, we’ve provided specific information about how you should safely use social media.