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Welcome to the TeenHelp Safety Zone! This page will help you find the information you need to stay safe. Whether you're worried about bullying, online safety or you're a concerned parent or carer, this page will hopefully provide the answers you need.
If you don't know the phone number for the police, ambulance etc, you can find phone numbers for your local emergency services here:
Our Hotlines page has a comprehensive list of crisis and other hotlines you can call. Although these aren't run by TeenHelp itself, many are available 24 hours a day and are a great way to reach out when you have nobody else to talk to.
If you have an adult you trust, such as a parent or carer, teacher, relative or family friend, reach out and talk to them in your moment of crisis, they may be able to help. If you're unsure who can help you, click below for some ideas.
If you have self harmed and are currently bleeding or have a burn, you may be able to apply first aid at home. If in doubt about how severe your injury is, always contact your local emergency services.
Our Get Advice page gives you all the options for how we can help you. Please note that for many of our services there may be a short wait for a response, so if you need immediate help the other options may be more suitable for you.
Everything we do is about keeping you safe and we take this commitment very seriously. Some of the ways we do this include:
Positive environment - We aim to maintain a positive, supportive, recovery-focused environment where everybody feels valued and listened to. This is supported by our Mission Statement - Click here.
Active moderation - We actively monitor content and behaviour of users on the site and take proactive steps to keep you safe. Our team of Moderators answer questions and respond to reports from users to do our best to resolve any issues quickly and efficiently.
Terms of Service - Our Moderators enforce what is known as our Terms of Service, especially the section called the Code of Conduct, which explains what we expect of users of our website and what behaviour isn't okay - Click here.
How we make decisions
TeenHelp is run by a team of volunteers who each have their own duties and responsibilities on the site. The following people are responsible for keeping you safe:
Moderators - Moderators are the first point of call for any issues. Each area of the website has its own specific Moderators, for example Forum Moderators address issues in the Support Forums, while Chat Moderators address issues in the Chat Room. You can contact them with any concerns you have.
Project Advisors - Project Advisors, also collectively known as the Disputes Committee, are a special group of senior Moderators who support Moderators to make decisions and can review and if need be reverse the decisions of Moderators. They help to ensure decisions are fair and you can appeal to them to look at an issue again if you're not happy with the original decision.
Team Leaders and Project Officers - Each area on the site has a Project Officer or a Team Leader who heads up that area. They are responsible overall for their area and the volunteers who run it. They can answer questions and resolve issues in any given area.
Project Coordinator - The Project Coordinator has overall responsibility for TeenHelp and when needed can intervene in situations to ensure they are resolved appropriately.
All of these volunteers will make decisions based on the Terms of Service, as well as various other guidance documents available to them. There are of course situations when the Terms of Service may not provide a definitive answer so we have the flexibility to make decisions based on common sense. For each issue the relevant volunteers will discuss the issue carefully, look at all the different evidence available and what rules in the Terms of Service are relevant. This enables them to make the best decisions in order to protect users on TeenHelp.
Please note: No volunteer will take part in decisions that they are involved in, for example if you complained about a specific Moderator they would not be involved in the decision about themselves.
Situations outside TeenHelp
We are best placed to respond to issues that arise on TeenHelp. Everything on TeenHelp is subject to our Terms of Service and can be monitored by our Moderator team. We therefore recommend that you continue to talk to individuals on TeenHelp through areas such as our Support Forum, Chat Room and Private Messages. Here are some tips for speaking to people outside of TeenHelp:
Where possible speak to users on TeenHelp instead of other services. Although it is tempting, as soon as you add someone to Facebook, Skype or give them your phone number you make it much more difficult for us to keep you safe.
If you do choose to speak to people outside of TeenHelp, be sure that you've known the person for a while and trust them.
Consider having a separate account just for TeenHelp users, for example a second Skype account that doesn't use your real name. This helps protect your anonymity and makes it easier for you to stop speaking to someone in the future.
If you believe you've received any inappropriate conversations keep evidence of them.
If you choose to speak to users outside of TeenHelp, for example through Facebook, Skype, or another service then this is at your own risk. If you have any concerns with users you've spoken to outside of the site, please contact us, depending on the circumstances we may or may not be able to help.
Hiding triggering content
If you get upset by certain subjects, such as self harm or eating disorders, you can hide threads about these subjects from showing by setting the options in your User CP. You can also hide threads that have been marked as non-PG13 or as containing strong language. This gives you far more control about what content you see on the site and helps you stay safe - Click here.
Report a problem
If you've experienced any problems on TeenHelp, such as you've seen a user being rude, you've been mistreated or bullied, or you want to challenge a decision, we want to hear from you:
If you're unsure who to contact or if you have a concern that isn't answered on these pages, please email us at contact [at] teenhelp.org
You might be visiting TeenHelp because you have recently discovered that your child uses TeenHelp to deal with their personal problems. This section aims to give you advice on how to tackle this situation.
Don't read your child's content without their permission - If your child uses TeenHelp there's a good chance they've posted some really personal stories about themselves. Some of these may contain information they don't want you to know about, and it's not fair for you to intrude into their lives without them knowing about it. Your child should be given the chance to decide what you see and when you see it, so don't try to follow your child around the site. Respect their right to keep their lives private from you if they wish.
Let your child know that you know about TeenHelp - Be honest with your child. Let them know that you know about us, and make it clear to them that you won't be checking the site unless they say you can. Build up a trusting agreement with them - you need to trust that they're being sensible online and that they'll tell you anything you need to know, and they need to trust that you're not trying to find out about them without them knowing.
Let them know that you're there for them - While your child may not want to open up to you about what they're going through - and most certainly won't tell you everything about their lives - let them know that if they do choose to open up to you, you're there to listen to anything they want to share.
Invite them to write you a letter explaining their problems - Even if your child may want to open up to you, they may not wish to sit down and talk to you. Many young people find it a lot easier to write a letter explaining their problems. It would be a good idea to let your child know you would be open to this and you may get a positive response as a result.
Is TeenHelp safe?
TeenHelp is completely safe for young people to use. We have put a wide range of protective measures in place to keep our users safe. These are some of the reasons why TeenHelp is safe for your child to use:
We don't require any sensitive information from our users. We recommend that users don't disclose private information (e.g. phone numbers, addresses, photos, etc) via TeenHelp, and take active steps to remove some of this information if it is posted. However, the more children choose to share about themselves the more at risk they become, so if your child uses TeenHelp we recommend you talk to them about what kinds of information they shouldn't be sharing on TeenHelp.
We have a Moderator team whose job it is to monitor what's going on in the various site areas, discuss issues, and remove users who we feel could be a threat to others. These Moderators are very efficient and catch the vast majority of problems quickly, but in the event that they don't then it is very easy for users to report problems to the TeenHelp Staff team to be investigated.
We provide a wide range of guidance and information for users to keep them safe, including through this Safety Zone and other areas of our site. This includes guidance on sharing personal information, meeting others, and protecting themselves from bullying, abuse and online security issues.
If you have any questions please contact us by email at contact [at] teenhelp.org.
My child is struggling, how can I help?
It can be difficult to find out that your child is struggling with their mental health. You might feel worried, angry, or helpless. Below are a few things you can consider doing to help your child with what they are experiencing.
Take a little bit of time to process this information. Initially, a lot of parents or caregivers feel shocked or even angry. If the situation is not immediately life threatening, take some time to process this and think about how you want to approach it. Try not to approach the situation until you are calm. Showing negative emotions towards your child can make them hesitant to confide in you. Stay calm, grounded, and open minded.
Encourage your child to talk to you, or someone else they trust. Parents or caregivers can be an important part of a child's support system. Sit down with them and encourage them to talk or write a letter if they don't want to express their feelings verbally. When in doubt, ask them what you can to do help or if there is anything in particular that would make them feel safer confiding in you. Bear in mind that some children do not want to confide in their parents. If that is the case, ask your child if there is anyone else they want to confide in, or look for professional help if that is an option for you.
Spend more time with your child if your schedule allows it. For many, thoughts and feelings increase their intensity while spending time alone. Being present with someone else can be a healthy distraction. You can spend more time with your child by watching a movie, playing a board game, taking walks on a daily basis, or doing something they're interested in. You can also encourage your child to join after school or community clubs and activities for a change of scenery.
Look into professional help if it is available to you. Everyone is different; many people benefit from a medication, therapy, or a combination of both. A professional such as a therapist or psychiatrist will give your child another outlet to express and work on their feelings. If you cannot get professional help, do some research about what your child is struggling with and try different self-help techniques. For instance, if your child is struggling with self-harm, you might read about alternatives; if your child is suicidal, you might look at safety plans or reasons to live.
Create your own support system if you need to. Your child is important and you are, too. Supporting someone who is struggling is admirable, but it can be difficult on the supporter sometimes. Talk to someone you trust, or look online for other parents in a similar situation. You have to take care of yourself so you can be in your best state of mind to support your child.
Download: Share Aware - NSPCC's Share Aware guide for parents helps you to figure out how to manage your children's privacy online, understand the risks of your children being online and tips for talking to them about it - Click here.
Website: Net Aware - This website lets you look up information on a specific website to find out how safe it is for your children - Click here.
Be careful what you post online - Often individuals will exploit you by trying to embarass you in the case of bullies or trying to track you down - See our "Privacy online" section for tips on this.
Don't give them the reaction they want - Often individuals are seeking to make you angry or upset, so showing this will encourage them to target you more.
Don't attack back - Don't respond to abusive individuals in the same way. If you do something bad back to them you may get in trouble too.
Talk to somebody - A parent or other trusted adult, a school teacher or the police for example.
Ignore them - If somebody you are speaking to online is upsetting you or making you uncomfortable, remember that almost all services including phone services such as Skype and WhatsApp allow you block somebody permanently with the touch of a button.
Keep evidence - If you receive threatening or upsetting messages, emails or pictures it can be your first instinct to just delete them - However it's important to keep all of this evidence because if you need to report an issue (e.g. to TeenHelp, a school, the police, etc) then this will all be important. Be sure to have logging enabled on programs such as Skype. This will give you a record of any conversations you have.
You don't need to have met someone in real life for them to bullying or abusive! See our "Safety information" section for more tips on this.
Remember, you are not alone!
Meeting others from online
If you spend a lot of time online you may become friends with those online and choose to meet them offline too. Although this can work out great and lead to new friendships and relationships, it's important to remember that those you meet online may not be who they say they are. The following tips will help you stay safe if you're meeting someone you met online:
Speak to the person for quite a while before meeting them - Make sure you know important information about them such as their age, where they're from and contact details. Don't meet strangers!
Pay attention to any inconsistencies while talking - If their stories don't match up they may be trying to hide things from you.
Tell someone where you're going and with whom.
Meet in a public place.
Take a phone with you.
Don't be entirely alone with them - This includes walking in a secluded area such as an alleyway or park, especially at night, or accepting a lift home in a car.
Watch your food and drink - Drink bottled/canned drinks, watch drinks made and don't leave a drink unattended while you go to the toilet. Drinks can be easily spiked with chemicals that can make you unconscious. Also be careful how much alcohol or substances you consume.
Keep any possessions with you at all times.
Trust your instincts - If you feel scared or uncomfortable at any time, make your apologies and get out of there.
Website: Think U Know - A website that provides a wide range of articles, videos and resources aimed at people of different ages and parents to help you stay safe! - Click here.
Sharing information can have benefits and risks. TeenHelp recommends users only share what is absolutely necessary with others online. The less you share the better. We recommend you be careful when sharing information such as:
Passport number, national insurance number, social security number, etc
All of this information allows you to be personally identified online because it relates just to you. This information can be misused, for example predators could use it to find you, or it might enable you to be found by others through search engines - See the "Cyberbullying, abuse and predators" section for more information on this.
Sometimes information that doesn't seem so sensitive can be misused too. For example, several pieces of information could be combined to build up a picture of you or used for phishing/identify fraud attempts - See the "Security and viruses" section for more tips on this. Some of the information in this category could include:
Date of birth
Mother's maiden name
School or university name
Name of employer
Possible consequences of sharing too much
Things you post online can come back to get you if you don't post them anonymously, for example:
Sharing personal problems online - If these are found they could be used to embarrass or bully you.
It could put you at risk of being targeted by predators - See "Cyberbullying, abuse and predators" for more information on this.
Badmouthing employers or a school - This could get you in trouble, you could lose your job or you may not be offered a place in a school.
Sending potentially embarassing pictures (such as nude photos) to others or allowing others to take pictures of you - Almost everybody has a smart phone these days so it's really easy to create those photos, but these things tend to get shared eventually and it's safer to just not take them.
Sharing information about other people without their consent - If you share information such as photos of your friends it could damage your relationships with friends and family, not to mention it's not fair to put other people's privacy at risk too.
You could be targeted for phishing or identity fraud - See "Security and viruses" for more information on this.
Of course, TeenHelp is a great place to seek help for problems with personal problems such as employers, schools or friends and family - But remember to keep it anonymous! Don't post your own names or that of others and you can seek all the help you need without it coming back to get you in the future!
How search engines collect and store information
Search engines collect records from around the Internet and store them on their own servers. This enables them to provide the most accurate search results for key words and is done automatically by computer programs called 'spiders'. When something new is posted online it won't appear in search engines right away, but once it does it can be hard to get rid of it. This is because search engines actually duplicate information and keep their own copy. This means that even if the original copy is deleted it can still be available and found in search engines. This applies to TeenHelp too. For example if you posted a blog entry on TeenHelp and later deleted it, it may be possible to still read it through a search engine. Therefore if there's something you don't want to be found out in the future, the safest thing is to avoid posting it entirely, because what goes online stays online.
How to control your privacy better
Sometimes it's necessary to share this information, however you have the choice of who you share it with and how you share it. For example if you need to give somebody your phone number you could send them an email with it instead of posting it in more public areas such as a forum or Facebook, which may be available to a search engine, predators or others.
When using websites such as Facebook always look through their privacy settings and make sure you set these properly - For example on Facebook you can set your profile to only be visible to friends.
If you're using a public computer clear web browser settings before you leave the computer. This can usually be found under the options or tools menu and might be called "clear browsing history".
How to set TeenHelp's privacy settings
TeenHelp has a few features you can use to further secure your information and keep you safe if you wish to do so.
Profile privacy - Click 'User CP' on the top left hand corner, then click 'Profile Privacy' on the left side. You have display options for several profile sections so you can hide certain areas from being visible to certain people. Use the drop down menus to choose who can view which information. Remember to save your preferences.
Invisible mode - Select 'Edit Options' from the left side of your User CP, and check 'Invisible Mode'. This mode allows you to be online without appearing on the 'Currently Active Users' list.
Private and Visitor Messaging - Also on the Edit Options page, you can restrict your messages so only your Contacts and Moderators can send you messages. You can also completely disable Private and Visitor Messaging if you do not wish to send or receive any messages.
Private blog posts - There is a drop down menu on the top left of your screen for Blogs. Click that, then select 'Your Blog', then select 'Post to your Blog'. Scroll down towards the bottom of the page and select 'Restrict viewing entry to Contacts and Blog Moderators'. Note: This is not automatic; this has to be ticked each time you post a new blog entry.
Private albums - Click 'Albums & Pictures' from the top of the page, or go through your profile to do so. Scroll down to the bottom left of your page and select 'Add Album'. The following page has fields for a title and description. Below that are different options. Choose 'Private - only visible to contacts and moderators'.
Viruses - A virus is any harmful program that can infect your computer. They can do all sorts of things such as make your computer slower, delete your files, track where you go online and other things. A trojan horse is a type of virus designed to look like something legitimate (such as a downloadable program) and a worm is a type of virus designed to send itself to others automatically, such as by manipulating your email account to send itself on to your friends.
Spyware and adware - These are similar to a virus, but usually less severe. They may be used to collect personal information or display advertising pop ups for products for example.
Malware - A collective term referring to viruses, spyware, adware and other malicious software together.
Phishing - This is when someone tries to trick you into sending your personal information, most commonly financial information. It could be a fake website designed to look like your bank or eBay so you will provide credit card information.
Hackers - Although a lot of computer problems are automated (such as viruses), there is the risk of real people out there who may directly target you by hacking your computer and gaining partial or full access to it.
Identity fraud - This is when somebody uses your personal information to pretend to be you - This could be used to steal money or worse.
How people breach your security - And tips to avoid these
Most security problems work by tricking you into doing something (this is called 'social engineering'). It is usually really easy to protect yourself if you follow some simple tips:
Choose a good strong password. Avoid passwords with common information such as your name or date of birth as these are easier to guess. Add numbers and symbols to your password to make them harder to guess.
Don't tell anyone else your password.
Change your passwords often.
Recognise harmful emails:
If it doesn't mention your name it may be from an untrustworthy source.
Don't click on any links sent to you via email unless you know who they're from, these may take you to a fake website (phishing) or install a virus on your computer - Some may appear to be from your bank, PayPal or eBay, but are often fake. Instead try using a search engine to get to these websites on your own.
Even clicking on pictures can cause viruses.
Often these emails may be trying to panic you by giving you a deadline to take action so you don't think logically.
Never provide bank or password details via email.
Check whether the address looks like it's from the same company, for example if you receive an email from Google the email address should end with "@google.com".
Don't trust emails from countries you've never visited.
Don't download anything unless you trust the source.
Don't install any programs on your computer unless you trust the source.
If you're unsure about a suspicious email, website or software, use Google to look up the company to see what you can find out about them before proceeding.
When sending sensitive information (such as credit card details for a payment) look at the website link in your browser address bar, it should say "https" at the start with a picture of a padlock. The S is important because it stands for "secure" and means your information is being encrypted and can't normally be read by others.
Don't share too much personal information line - Quite often banks use personal information such as your date of birth or name of your pet as security questions - So if you share too much people may be able to piece it together - See our "Privacy online" section for further tips on this.
Don't run your computer in administrative mode - Most modern operating systems prevent this automatically, but not all of them. If you're logging into an administrator account (for example you are able to install software without re-entering your password) then we recommend you create a second account to use. This makes it much harder for viruses to install themselves automatically without a password.
Software available to help
Antivirus - Antivirus software can help to protect you against viruses by automatically detecting and removing them.
Antispyware/antimalware - Like antivirus, these programs can help you remove all the other little problems on your computer.
Firewall - While antivirus and antispyware are like the medicine for your computer, a firewall is like your immune system. If you have a properly configured firewall you should be able to avoid getting viruses in the first place most of the time.
Make sure all the other software you use is up to date - Such as your operating system and browser. Older versions of programs may be more at risk of giving you a virus.
It is best to use only one anti-virus and firewall program at a time as they can interfere with one another and stop them from working properly.
Be sure to keep your computer up to date. Your computer may ask you to install updates on its own, alternatively you can do this yourself. This protects your computer by fixing security problems.
New programs are released all the time, for tips on which are the best ones to use try using a search engine or asking in our Technology and Gaming forum.