Over the recent years, there has been a mega growth in kids and teenagers using the internet. The internet is great for a number of things, such as research, playing games, watching videos, and even staying in contact with your friends. But there is a dark-side to the internet. The growth in internet usage has also led to an increase in serious issues such as cyber-bullying and even depression. To make sure you stay safe online, we created this online safety guide. The ultimate goal of this guide is to give you tips on what to do and what NOT to do when using apps and websites, like Imagine Forest.
Before we get into the details of some serious online issues, here are some VERY IMPORTANT tips to keep you safe online. We highly recommend remembering and practicing these points whenever you are online (especially if you’re a member of a social online community or forum).
Cyber bullying (or online bullying) is bullying that takes place using electronic devices, such as via an app or a website. The effects of cyberbullying can be more significant compared to traditional bullying, as the upsetting content is preserved online for anyone to see and can stay there forever if not removed. And even if the content is removed, there could still be screenshots of the upsetting content placed anywhere on the internet.
Some examples of cyber bullying include:
Chances are, if you feel upset by another user’s comment or content - It could be cyber bullying. We always recommend that you speak to someone (preferably a grown up) that you trust, about any upsetting content, posts or comments. This could be your parents, guardians or a teacher at your school. Never deal with bullying on your own.
Here are a number of ways to deal with cyber bullies:
In serious cases of cyberbullying, the police can also get involved, especially if the content or user violates cyberbullying laws.
The internet is full of wonderful and interesting content to like and share with your friends. But it is also full of content that could cause upset, anger and even confusion. Examples of offensive/upsetting content may include the following:
Content such as the examples stated above can really upset and offend groups of individuals or society as a whole. If you come across posts, comments or content that causes upset or anger, the best course of action is to report it. Once reported the content will be reviewed by the website owner and removed.
To protect yourself from such content, you can take the following actions:
Always share positive messages online. Be a role model and inspiration to others. Together we can create a safe and happy online community for all.
The internet allows you to meet and friend users from all over the world. It can be exciting chatting with so many new friends, especially if you’re a shy person in real-life. However you need to be very careful, as people you meet online may not always be telling you the truth about who they are. For example, a 12 year old from Atlanta, could easily be a 47 year old from Boston. There's no way of telling who a person is really online. That’s why it’s VERY important to never ever share personal information about yourself online. Even if you like the person and have been speaking to them for months - Never give them anything that can be personally identified.
Here are some example of personal identifying information that you should NEVER give to anyone or share online:
Sharing these types of personal information can be very dangerous. It can lead to identity theft, strangers finding your home address, and even further threats offline. Here are some tips to keep your personal identity safe online
Many people turn to online support when they are feeling alone, depressed or suicidal. This could be in the form of a post where the person shares their feelings or a specific incident that has made them upset. It could even be a direct message to you, where someone mentions their suicidal intentions or feelings of depression.
It is important to always know that help and support is available whenever you need it. Whenever you feel depressed or suicidal, it is VERY important that you speak to someone about it before taking any other action. You can talk to a family member, friend, school teacher, or a suicide crisis line. You can find a complete list of suicide crisis lines for your country in this Wikipedia post.
We also created this guide on suicide prevention, so you know exactly what to do when you or someone you know feels this way.
I reported some content, but it still has not been removed?
It can take sites/apps up to a few days to remove reported content. On Imagine Forest, we aim to remove reported content that violates our rules within 24hrs of the report. If reported content is not removed after a few days, it can also mean that the content was actually safe in the first place, and did not violate any rules. You may wish to directly email the website owner, and ask them why the content was not removed for a detailed explanation.
Someone is bullying me online, what should I do?
In the first instance, you should report the user or content and block the user so they can no longer interact with you online. If the bullying continues, you should tell someone you trust such as a parent or teacher at your school. In addition to this, if the bullying does not stop, we recommend that you delete your account on the app/website. Never ever respond to the bully or bullies, as this can make matters much worse.
Can I share my email address with friends online?
No. Never ever share your email address with anyone. Even if you speak to this user regularly, you don’t really know who they are and why they need your email address. Once someone has your email address, they can sign you up to loads of dodgy websites and even leak your email on the internet for anyone to spam. It could also increase the chances of your email address and any linked accounts to be hacked.
Should I meet someone I met online in person?
Never. If a user is asking to meet you offline, always respond by saying, “Sorry, I'm not allowed to meet anyone in person.” Even if you knew this user for months or over a year online, do not meet them in person. If this is upsetting you, then please speak to a grown-up such as your parents or a teacher, so they can help you deal with this situation.
I’ve seen an offensive post/comment - What should I do?
Always report any offensive or upsetting content you come across online. Reported content if violating the website/app rules will be removed, and the user could be banned. You could also block the user, so you longer see content from them on the site/app. We also recommend that you speak to your parents or a teacher at your school about the content you’ve seen online to help you better understand it and deal with it.
I feel alone online - No-one likes my content or becomes my friend - What can I do?
This is a common issue on online communities, especially if you’re a new member to an already fully active site/app. The best thing to do is not to worry about it. Focus on creating valuable content and be helpful to other members of the site/app. Post friendly comments, and be nice to everyone. Eventually you should get some likes and even make some friends. If the site/app is no longer any fun, and making you upset, then the best course of action is to delete it, and try out something new.
A user keeps bothering me online - What should I do?
Block the user in the first instance, so they can no longer message or contact you online. If the user does not stop, then please report them. By reporting the user, they should eventually get banned if they violated any rules.
Someone hurt my feelings - What should I do?
If you are friends with this user, you can try explaining to them nicely that they’ve hurt your feelings. If this does not work or results in harsh comments, report the user and block them, so they can no longer engage with you on the site/app.
How can I provide feedback on a user’s content without upsetting them?
Always be nice to others. As the saying goes, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say nothing at all”. If you want to provide criticism or feedback, you can do it along with a compliment. For example, “This is a really cool idea! I like the part about XYZ! It would be nice to also include some more...”. If you are worried about sounding ‘harsh’ or ‘horrible’ then do not post anything.