Anyone can set up a professional-looking website. All it takes is a simple software package and a couple of hours. Just because these sites don’t contain unsuitable content doesn’t mean they are safe. There are no laws to protect young people who go to these websites looking for help.
The people who run these websites are not usually checked by the Criminal Records Bureau as they would have to be if they were working with young people in real life, and they’re not registered charities. They may also be based abroad rather than in the UK. Some websites pose such risks to the young people using them that they have been reported to the police and social services.
Websites which were risky included:
a site offering help to teenagers self harming run by a woman who also posted in other places on the internet telling people how to kill themselves
a self harm website which links to graphic pictures of self inflicted injuries
several websites claiming to be charities which were private businesses
a fun website run by an adult posing as a teenage girl
a self harm website for young people run by a bogus teacher
an anti-bullying website asking pupils to part with personal information
There’s no reason why any genuine website would need to keep contact with a young person secret from the young person’s parents, unless it was run by an organisation to which they might be revealing abuse by their carers.
Staying safe on the internet
The same rules apply on websites as they do in chatrooms. Don’t give out any personal details like your name, address, phone number or school.
It might be exciting to think you could win a prize by filling in your details on a website but don’t do it. Not only might you get a lot of junk emails (spam) but you don’t know if your details will be sold to someone else.
If a website says your visit won’t be recorded on your home computer then be very wary. Why should it matter who knows that you’ve been to the site unless you’re visiting a site like the NSPCC where you want to tell them that someone has been mistreating you?
Some advice can be dangerous
Be very careful about taking advice from websites. Unless there’s a section telling you who runs the site and what their expertise is, they may not have any. Some sites, particularly those with teenage forums, can give dangerous advice.
The people trying to help you out are probably well intentioned, but if you’re upset, depressed, having a bad time in a relationship or at school, you need the best help you can get, and that might be face-to-face or from a recognised charity.
Don’t take any medical advice from a website, the best people to help you with worries about your health are your parents and family doctor who know you best.
The website owner should always be happy for your parents or carers to know that you’re contacting them and should never offer to do anything on your behalf without your parents knowing about it.