Reporting illegal and harmful online content
The internet can host a wide range of online content that audiences worldwide can experience and enjoy. Most of the time, content can be positive, insightful, and valuable but unfortunately, it can also be harmful, damaging, and sometimes illegal. Because of this, reporting plays an essential role in making sure the internet is a safe and positive place for children and young people.
Best practices for parents and carers
Know when to report
If you or your child has seen something online that is illegal, upsetting or harmful, then it is always best to report it. Remember, illegal content includes sexual images of under 18s and unlawful terrorist content. You can also report something that may be legal but is still considered harmful such as content that includes bullying, self-harm or suicide, impersonation, online abuse, threats, violence, unwanted sexual advances or pornographic content across non-adult sites.
Report to the correct place
Depending on the content, reports need to go to specific places for the correct support. If you want to report child sexual abuse material, go to the Internet Watch Foundation. If it is terrorist content, visit ACT (Action Counters Terrorism). Many online platforms also have reporting functions available to users. Make sure you utilize these when experiencing harmful online content. You can go to Report Harmful Content to find out how to report across some of the most well-known social media sites and other popular online platforms.
Understand community guidelines
Many online platforms will have their own community guidelines when it comes to harmful online content. If you are looking to report a piece of content, it must violate the platforms community guidelines in order to be taken down. Familiarise yourself with each platform’s expectations towards behaviours and understand why certain reports will be actioned and others may not. If you have made an unsuccessful report but still feel it violates community standards, you can then visit Report Harmful Content for further escalation and review.
Reporting is a practice that can work towards making the internet a safer place for all. Ignoring a piece of harmful online content can lead towards others experiencing harm. Encourage discussion around the importance of children and young people reporting upsetting content to a parent, carer, or trusted adult. This can add to further awareness and critical thought around what is harmful online content and ways we can all tackle it.
Best practices for schools
Make sure you are aware of who to go to in your school or organisation if you have concerns about someone experiencing harmful online content. This could be the designated safeguarding lead, the head of year or someone from the senior leadership team.
Useful links from the UK Safer Internet Centre and other organisations about reporting
Report Harmful Content
Available for anyone over 13 to get support with reporting harmful online content.
A tool from IWF and Childline to support under 18s report a nude image online that has been shared.
An anonymous communication tool by SWGfL, giving students confidence to report issues and concerns.
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