Online crime 11-15

You probably use the internet everyday through your mobile phone, tablet, laptop or computer to learn, have fun and keep in touch with friends.


It’s important that just like in the real world, you make sure you stay safe while you’re chatting to friends and looking at websites and apps, as people can sometimes use the internet to trick or bully other people and they may pretend to be someone they’re not.

What is online crime?

Online crime is anything that is illegal that happens on line. There are a number of different types of online crime:


This is when people send nasty and upsetting messages to other people online. Usually, cyber-bullying happens on social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat. Cyber-bullies can use these sites to threaten, tease, humiliate or upset you.  Find out more in our cyber-bullying section.


When people use the internet to harass or frighten someone, this is called cyber-stalking. This is when someone repeatedly sends intimidating messages that threaten to harm and make the person receiving the messages cared for his or her safety. The actions may be illegal too depending on what they are doing. This can be really worrying as it can happen at all times of the day and night.

Identity theft

This is when someone uses the internet to get your personal details and then uses them to commit a crime. This can include opening a bank account in your name, applying for mobile phone contracts and ordering items online using your bank details.

The more information you put online, the bigger the risk of this happening to you. Read our golden rules below about staying safe online.


Sending or receiving pictures of someone in their underwear or naked is called Sexting. These images or videos can be sent from a boyfriend, girlfriend, friend or someone you have met online. Anyone who is under the age of 18 and sends photographs of themselves naked or in underwear is breaking the law!

You can be drawn into sexting because:

  • you want to fit in with in with friends;
  • you’re pressured to ‘prove’ your sexuality;
  • you’re bullied into sending pictures;
  • you’re made to feel guilty if you don’t do what someone else asks;
  • you feel it’s ok because you’re in love with the person and trust them; or
  • you feel proud of your body and want to share it with other people.

Stop and think. Remember: There is no turning back once you press send. Even if you use apps like Snapchat, whoever you send pictures to can take a screen shot to save your picture.

Illegal and adult websites

Some websites and apps show sex, violence, drug abuse and illegal activities. It can be frightening and embarrassing to come across something you know is illegal on the internet.

If you see anything that concerns or upsets you, tell an adult or talk to Voice.


Grooming is when older people pretend to be younger, to make friends with young people and have a relationship. with them. It is illegal for anyone under 16 to have sex with someone else, and if someone older tries to have sex with anyone under 16, they are breaking the law.

Grooming can happen on social networks, apps and message boards. The older person may try to trick you by sending you fake pictures, pretending to like the same things you do and by offering you presents to make you trust them.

After the person has your trust, they may try to talk to you about sex – and ask you to send pictures or videos of yourself, or they may ask you to meet them.

NEVER meet up with someone you have only had contact with online.

How can I stay safe online?

  • never post personal information online. Don’t tell anyone your address, email address or mobile number, or where you go to school. Keep personal information as general as possible;
  • never let anyone know your passwords and change them regularly. Check the privacy settings on accounts like Facebook/Twitter and make sure you know how to keep your personal information private. If you don’t, Voice can help;
  • think very carefully before posting photos of yourself online. Once your picture is online, anyone can download it, share it and even change it;
  • never meet someone you have only been in contact with online. This can be extremely dangerous, remember online friends are still strangers even if you have been talking to them for a long time;
  • never respond or retaliate to negative or hurtful posts. Block and report any users that send you nasty messages on social media sites;
  • tell your parents or a teacher if you’re worried about something or someone that you have come across on the internet. They’ll help you to stay safe;
  • only chat to real friends and family online. Keep your online friends to people you know;
  • when using chat rooms, make sure they’re moderated. This means that you can chat all you like, but an adult will be keeping an eye out in case of any problems; and
  • use your common sense. If something seems wrong or makes you feel uncomfortable, do not reply and tell a parent or other responsible adult.

The golden rules when online

  • never give out personal information such as your address or phone number;
  • never send pictures of yourself to anyone;
  • never open emails or attachments from people you don’t know;
  • never arrange to meet someone in person who you’ve met online; and
  • if anything you see or read online worries you, tell someone about it.

What can I do if I have experienced crime online?

Talk to an adult you can trust and tell them what has been going on. You won’t be in trouble and they will help you stay safe and sort any problems out.

Speak to Voice. Our friendly staff can help you deal with any kind of online crime, no matter when or where it happened.

I’m under 13 – what can I do online?

The rules of sites like Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr and Twitter say you have to be a minimum 13-years-old to sign-up. For other sites, such as Whatsapp, you may need to be even older.

If you’re under 13 you shouldn’t be using these social media sites – you’ll be breaking their rules and could be putting yourself at risk.

Why is there an age limit?

There are lots of reasons why these sites can be unsafe for young people, even those over 13, so it’s important that you don’t use them until you know how to keep yourself safe.

If you’re under-13 and already using social networks, make sure you tell an adult you can trust and always follow our top tips and golden rules above.

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