Ask Sam letter


To Sam

how to be safe

hi, sam how could you be safe online
Ask Sam


Hi there,

The three main dangers online are:

  • giving away your identity
  • giving away access to your computer
  • seeing or doing things that you might not be ready for.

It might seem like someone knowing your real name online is not a big deal if they don’t know anything else about you. But it’s easy to piece together little bits of information we leave in different places.

If someone has your name or screen-name, they can Google that and find other places you’ve posted online. You might have shared something like your home town or school name. Once they have all these little bits of information it makes it easier to contact you in the real world, which could be dangerous. You can avoid this by using different screen names on different sites, as well as being really careful not to share any information that could give clues to your real identity.

Your phone or computer often has a lot of information about you and might have things like saved passwords for your email or social network accounts. If someone got into your devices, they could pretend to be you, access private messages or steal information about you.

Someone can get access to your computer by giving you a virus or other software designed to let them onto your device. Try to avoid installing apps and software that you don’t know for sure are trustworthy. Doing a quick search to see what people say about an app can stop you installing something dodgy.

Often this kind of software can be installed by clicking on banner adverts. If there’s an advert that seems too good to be true, it probably is. For example, some banner adverts or pop-ups say you have won something - but you shouldn't click on these. Nobody gives away anything for free.

Finally another danger online is that you see things you didn’t want to see, like porn or disturbing videos. You could also do things online you might regret later - like sending pictures of yourself or talking to dishonest people.

Unfortunately for all the interesting and funny things we can look at on the internet, there are also lots of unpleasant things too. Sometimes we come across this by accident. Sometimes we might be linked to it by friends and pressured into watching it. The next time this happens, ask yourself whether you’re going to be better off having seen it or not. If no good can come from it, then why take the risk?

If anyone ever asks for photos of you, especially ones without clothes or in a sexual way, then this is against the law if you are under 18. It might seem harmless at the time but once that picture or video is out of your hands, it can go anywhere. Things online tend to stay around for a long time and you have very little control over that. Take a look at our page about sexting and our mobile app, ZIPIT, for more information about this.

I hope that answers your question and helps you to stay safe online. You can take a look at more advice about this over in our Explore pages.

Take care,

Need help straight away?

You can talk privately to a counsellor online or call 0800 1111 for free.

Ask me a question

You can ask me about anything you want, there's nothing too big or small. I read every single letter but I can only answer a few each week. My replies are published here on my page.

Write me a letter