Kathryn Tremlett, Professionals Online Safety Helpline Practitioner, looks at the advice professionals may want to give when talking to young people about anonymous platforms.

It’s not uncommon in life for people to put on a different mask depending on the situation they’re in. The increasing popularity of anonymous question and response sites highlight how young people today view anonymity as a way to express themselves.

Anonymous messaging

Anonymous question and response sites are becoming increasingly popular in the UK. These are messaging apps which allow anyone to leave anonymous feedback about you upon request.

In the past other anonymous apps such as Ask.fm, Anonymoose and YikYak have come in and out of fashion.

The popularity of these platforms can be because users feel it provides them with the freedom they need to speak openly and honestly and express themselves in a way that they may not feel comfortable doing otherwise.

This freedom to express yourself is part of what makes the internet so great. However it’s also important to be aware that anonymity online carries certain risks, particularly for young people.

Below is the advice professionals may want to give when talking to young people who use these anonymous platforms.

  • Treat everyone the way you want them to treat you
    ​Think about your audience and how the people reading your content will feel before you send it. Even if you are commenting anonymously, this will have a very real impact on the person who is reading it.
  • Look after others
    If you see something you don’t like happening online then report it. Many sites have inbuilt reporting functions which can help you to help social networking sites make a difference.
  • Take control
    If something makes you feel uncomfortable or things are getting a bit intense, take 5 minutes.
    Step away and give yourself time to think about an appropriate response to the situation at hand – you are in control.
  • Think – Are you really anonymous?
    When posting online there are several pieces of information you leave behind which can help identify you such as your IP address and cookies.
    In an age when technological advances mean that even users of encrypted services and the dark web are now beginning to be identifiable, you shouldn’t always assume using an alias can hide your identity.
  • Check your privacy settings
    Make sure you understand who can see what you post and learn how you can change this should you want to make amends at a later date.
  • Talk to someone you trust
    If you have seen or received something that has upset you or made you feel uncomfortable, then speak to someone you trust, such as a parent, teacher or a good friend. This is the best way to ensure that everyone involved gets the help they need. Young people can also speak to Childline or The Mix for free confidential advice.

If you are a professional working with young people and want to discuss a concern, don’t hesitate to contact the Professionals Online Safety Helpline helpline@saferinternet.org.uk 0344 381 4772

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