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Exploitation: How to protect yourself

Anyone can be exploited.

Knowing how to keep yourself or a friend safe is important to help minimise the risk.

Exploitation can take place in a number of ways. It can be online, in person by a stranger or someone you know, and it could be an adult or a child.

Protecting yourself online

Using social media and other online platforms can be an ideal place for perpetrators to try and find children and young people that they can exploit.

Whilst there are some people out there who genuinely want to become friends with you online, there are others who are pretending to be something they are not. It’s important to stay alert if a stranger attempts to contact you through social media.

There are a number of warning signs to look for whilst online:

  • Some perpetrators will pretend to have the same interests and hobbies as you to build your trust, or tell you lots of things that are too good to be true about themselves
  • Flattery is commonly used. Perpetrators like to make you feel special, and they do this as it’s hard to think badly about someone who is being so nice
  • Some perpetrators move conversations onto sexual topics and will talk about sex, could ask for naked pictures of you or for videos of you doing sexualised activities (Remember it’s against the law for someone to ask for these types of pictures or videos) (link to sexting article)

REMEMBER– there are a number of ways that you can protect yourself online from being exploited:

  • Turn settings (including location settings) on social media accounts to private so that people you are not friends with can’t see your posts or your location
  • Don’t add people that you don’t know on any social media account
  • Don’t automatically trust someone even if they seem really friendly
  • Block anyone who is acting inappropriately or is saying inappropriate things
  • Only talk to people in the online gaming world that you know in real life
  • Tell a trusted adult like a school nurse, teacher or parent if you are worried about someone online
  • Don’t arrange to meet people in person who you have met online. If you are considering meeting someone in person, speak to your parents/carers or a trusted adult about this first.

Protecting yourself when you’re out

Hanging out with friends face to face and online is a normal part of life. However, it’s important that, whilst you’re doing this, you stay safe, and are aware of your surroundings.

Some perpetrators know where children and young people tend to spend their time with friends and will hang around these areas. They may try to become friends and develop a personal relationship with you.

Perpetrators will often offer you things like gifts, money, drugs, alcohol or cigarettes, or invite you to parties to develop that relationship. They can also use similar ways to try and exploit you, and doing this face to face can make it more difficult for you to say no to them.

Trying to stay safe can be difficult, especially if peer pressure is involved, but here are some simple things that you can do to stay safe:

  • Don’t automatically trust someone even if they seem really friendly
  • Don’t always believe what someone is saying if it seems too good to be true
  • Listen to your gut instincts
  • Its ok to say no if you don’t want to do something
  • Don’t accept any items that are offered to you, including drugs, alcohol and cigarettes
  • Don’t go off alone if you have drunk any alcohol or taken any drugs
  • Don’t give out your personal number or add people to your social media accounts until you get to know them properly
  • Make sure your phone is charged and has credit
  • Memorise numbers of important people like a parent or a trusted friend/adult
  • Don’t lie to your parents or friends about where you’re going
  • If you are considering meeting someone in person, speak to your parents/carers or a trusted adult about this first.

Most importantly, remember that it’s ok to speak to someone you trust like a parent, teacher, school nurse or close friend about anything, whether you think it’s big or small.

If you have concerns or are worried about a friend, talk to someone you trust to keep yourself and your friend’s safe.

How to get help

If you have any more questions on this area or would like to speak to somebody about this topic, have a look at the links or search for your local services in the blue box below. Alternatively you can always contact your school nurse.

Cross Hatch

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