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Interacting Online

Interacting online has become a part of our everyday lives. It allows us to make friends all over the world and makes it easier to keep in touch with friends and family who might not live close by.

Some common activities that allow you to interact with others online are:

Online chatting

Online chatting

Chatting online using instant messaging programs or chat rooms has many benefits:

  • You can stay connected with friends from school or those who have moved away;
  • You can chat while browsing the web;
  • You have the opportunity to make new friends from all over the world; and
  • Chat programs can be used to work with others on school projects or to transfer files.

However, when chatting, you may encounter people who could try to take advantage of you. Some issues that may come up when chatting online are:

  • It’s harder to determine who you should and shouldn’t talk to online. People can lie about their age, sex, location and intentions.
  • Others may pressure you to share information (photos, videos etc.) you do not want to, or they can send you inappropriate messages, photos or videos.
  • You can witness or become the victim of cyberbullying.

If someone is bothering you in any way on the Internet (like harassing you, threatening you, making you feel bad, etc.), tell a parent or trusted adult. Although they may be upset, it’s still very important that you talk to someone about this. Even talking to someone like a school guidance counselor can help, and is better than not telling anyone about what’s going on. Just make sure you do tell someone, so that you have someone to support you and help you through this. Also, if someone is upsetting you, they could be upsetting others – so telling someone about them might actually prevent others from getting hurt!

Photo Sharing

Photo Sharing

Photo sharing is a great way to let friends and family know what’s going on in your life. Photos can be shared through instant messaging programs, chat rooms, social networking sites, photo sharing sites, email and a variety of other programs.

However, photo sharing can raise some issues:

  • Once you send or upload a photo, it’s out of your control. A private photo that you send to a boyfriend or girlfriend can easily be distributed to everyone on his or her contact list. And once it’s online, it can be downloaded and saved and even altered by anyone in the world.
  • Once you post a photo online, anyone can see it. While you may be able to control your ‘privacy settings’ there are always loopholes; social media sites don’t want you to have private information – their whole model is built on sharing information freely. Some pictures may get you in trouble with your parents or even with the police. Keep this in mind when posting photos of your friends as well – always get their permission before posting anything.



Like photo sharing, webcams are a great way to stay in touch over long distances. But webcams can also pose hidden dangers:

  • Some people might try to gain your trust, and after a certain amount of time may begin pressuring you to do things, like going on webcam and letting them watch you change. So be careful about using a webcam, especially with people you only know through the Internet.
  • Don’t believe people if they claim that what they’re getting you to do is just a way to get a start in modeling or show business – legitimate businesses do not operate like this.
  • Once your webcam broadcasts a video, it can be captured by the other person’s computer and saved for later viewing, posted to a website or copied to a CD and distributed.
  • Webcams can be controlled remotely. Even if you think your webcam is off, if someone has hacked into your computer, he or she can use it to film you without your knowledge (consider covering your webcam with a towel or turn it toward a wall when you are not using it).



Sexting refers to sending photos, videos or messages that are sexual in nature by cell phone or the Internet. They can be sent to your boyfriend/girlfriend, individuals you want to date, individuals you met online or anyone else. Sexting carries the same risks as photo sharing and webcam use: once you have sent a photo, video or message of yourself, it is out of your control. There is no way to limit who the photos or videos are passed on to, or who will see them. The photos, videos and messages can also be saved for later viewing, published to a website, or saved to a CD and distributed. In other words, once a photo is online, it is potentially online forever.

Online Gaming

Online Gaming

Playing online games is a great way to pass the time and to make new friends. Online games have evolved very quickly and in many games you can now talk and interact with other players live. This development makes it even easier for those who wish to exploit you to gain personal information: you may be more likely to reveal this information when talking to other gamers because you feel like you know the person you’re talking to. The bottom line is that you have no way of knowing who they really are or what their true intentions are.

Social Networking Sites

Social Networking Sites

Social networking sites let you stay in touch with friends and family all over the world and update them on your life. With message boards, photos, video applications and more, these sites are getting more and more complex. However, it’s easy for people to find out all kinds of information about you if you post it on your profile, and some people may use this information to get something from you (like getting you to pose for them on webcam).

The main purpose of social networking websites is to get people to connect, whether with friends or just people from around the world who share the same interests as you. It’s important to remember, though, that sharing too much personal information can be a bad thing and that sometimes it can get into the wrong hands (like a creepy old man!).

You might get private messages from people on these websites, but if that makes you uncomfortable, you can always make your security settings really private so that only friends can message you. It’s okay to make friends online, so long as you do not provide too much personal information about yourself – and you should also keep your online friends online

For more information on how to create a safe online profile, visit our fact sheet on constructing an online profile for social networking sites.


The use of the Internet to entice or persuade youth (anyone under the age of 18) to meet for sexual acts or to help arrange such a meeting is a crime under the Criminal Code of Canada. There can also be serious consequences if you send photos or videos of someone who is under the age of 18 and the photo/video is of a sexual nature, even if you know the individual. For example, if you pass on a sexual photo/video from your boyfriend or girlfriend who is under 18 years of age, it could be considered distribution of child pornography and may result in criminal charges.

What You Can Do


Sometimes talking to strangers online can seem harmless, but sometimes it can have negative consequences. Here are some do’s and don’ts that should help you stay safe online:

  • Don’t give out too much personal information. Stick to just giving vague information, like your first name or province/territory.
  • If you are thinking about meeting up with someone you met online, ask for your parents’ permission first, and make sure you have someone with you. This way you can stay safe in case your Internet friend isn’t really who they said they were.
  • Do remember that once you post something online, you can’t control who that information is shared with – and removing it from wherever you posted doesn’t mean someone hasn’t already reposted it somewhere else (The Door That’s Not Locked).
  • Do tell someone, like a trusted parent or adult, if someone on the Internet is making you uncomfortable. Your safety is important, and they will help protect you from those uneasy feelings.

Parents and Adults

Here are some tips that can help ensure your young person’s safety on the Internet:

  • Let your child know they can talk to you about anything and that you will always be there for them, no matter what. This is important because it builds trust, and also lets your child know that they can come to you without fear of judgment.
  • Know that social media and information and communication technologies (ex: smart phones) are a regular part of your young person’s life. Threatening to take away their Internet access or smart phone can have detrimental effects; your young person will be a lot more reluctant to actually come and talk to you if something negative is happening to them online.
  • Learn how young people are using the Internet. You may have a lot of preconceived notions about ‘social media’ and the Internet that are inaccurate.  Remember that the Internet and/or social media sites are not the issue; the way that some people use them is the problem.
  • Set some personal boundaries for the young person (like the value of privacy when changing clothes, etc.), and teach them to live by those boundaries (The Door That’s Not Locked).
  • Teach the young person about the dangers of posting personal information (location, school, full name, personal pictures) online.