Staying safe on a new social network

By Anti-Bullying Campaign

Ten years ago Facebook was two years old and Twitter, ASKfm and Instagram were just an idea; things move quickly in the world of social networks and it can seem like there is a new must-have social network every few months. In the rush to stay current it’s easy to let safety slip so we’ve come up with a quick list of things that you should look out for when you’re online.

Social Network (noun): a website or other application which enables users to communicate with each other by posting information, comments, messages, images, etc.

    • Set up privacy at the beginning – Privacy is one of those things you might not think about until something goes wrong and it’s really easy to skip over it in the excitement of setting up a new social network. Taking a few minutes while setting up the social network to think through who you’re comfortable seeing your personal information and posts can make a positive difference in the long run.


    • What can you expect? – Each new social network profile presents a great opportunity to connect with your friends but it can also mean that there are new risks to watch out for. It’s a great idea to spend two minutes checking out what these might be, you can do this for most social networks at Net Aware.


    • Are you old enough? – Most social networks have a minimum age requirement (typically this is 13). These age requirements are there for your safety and to prevent you from seeing something you shouldn’t. They are also part of the platform’s terms of service which means that if they find out that you are under 13, they are likely to delete your profile.


    • Know how to use safety tools – Knowing what safety tools exist and how to use them when you’re in trouble is a really useful thing to think about (There’s a useful list here). Make sure you look out for the “report” feature which you can use to alert the social network if something goes wrong. The “block” feature can be used to stop people communicating with you and for some social networks stop people seeing your online activity


  • Careful who you add – This kind of goes along with privacy, but it’s worth highlighting. When starting a new social network it’s easy to get carried away and add anyone and everyone, but it’s worth thinking through what you’re comfortable with them seeing. For some social networks you can tailor what each person sees which can be useful if you’re unsure about how much you want someone to see.

“Taking a few minutes while setting up the social network to think through who you’re comfortable seeing your personal information and posts can make a positive difference in the long run”

    • Use a solid password – It almost goes without saying, but it’s definitely worth making sure you have a strong password. Try and make it at least 10 characters and throw in some variety using upper and lower case letters as well as numbers and symbols.


    • Don’t upload your personal details at once – Often social network profiles want us to share our personal information with everyone: dates of birth, phone numbers, location, email addresses, the list goes on. Remember though, that unless you’ve set up a solid fence of privacy this can be seen by anyone and everyone and they could use it to scam you. Instead only share key personal information with those you really trust.


    • Think before you post – It’s a good idea to think carefully about what you’re posting when you use a new social network. It’s easy for people to take things the wrong way online at the best of times, but when you’re using an unfamiliar social network the risk of this happening increases, so take your time and get used to the platform before you reveal how truly awesome you are.


    • Know who you can talk to if something goes wrong – Sometimes things go wrong and it’s really important to know who you can turn to when it does. Try and think of five people, including two adults, who you could talk to if something bad happened; it could be friends, family, teachers, as long as you would feel comfortable talking to them.

Support services like Childline 0800 11 11 11 (UK) or 1800 66 66 (IRE) offer free confidential support via telephone and online chat. You can also ask us a question anonymously on ASKfm:  or check out our website for more advice.

  • Let your parents/guardians know what you’re on – It’s up to you of course, but sometimes it’s a good idea to let your parents know what social networks you’re using, why you enjoy them and what you’re doing to stay safe. This can help reassure them that you’re being responsible online.