Why is this important?
Offensive or harmful internet content
Offensive or illegal material can be found on websites or in chat rooms or newsgroups. A common way to receive this material is through spam emails advertising illegal products or pornography. There is no central body that monitors or approves content or activity on the internet before it goes online.
This page gives information about offensive material you may come across online and what to do about it. It also contains information on safeguarding children.
Pornography is also known as adult content. It's against the law to publish some pornographic material in the UK if it's considered to be obscene or extreme. It's also a criminal offence to sell pornography over the internet with no means of making sure the customer is over 18. If you come across this, report it to the police. Otherwise, it's not against the law for pornography to be available online. If you come across obscene or extreme pornographic material, report it to the police or the Internet Watch Foundation.
It's against the law to take, possess, show, distribute or advertise indecent images of children. It's against the law to download these images from the internet and also to store them or print them out. If you know someone has downloaded child pornography from the internet, contact the police. You can report child sexual abuse content to the Internet Watch Foundation.
Grooming is where an adult uses the internet to gain the trust of children or young people with the intention of abusing them sexually. Grooming is against the law.
Obscene content is against the law. Examples of obscene content could be images of rape or torture. Report obscene material to the police or to the Internet Watch Foundation.
Racist material is against the law. It's a criminal offence to stir up racial hatred on the grounds of colour, race, nationality or ethnic or national origins. Report racist material to the police through the True Vision website.
There are some websites based outside the UK that publish morbid material like beheadings. If you are disturbed by these images, you could consider complaining to the Internet Service Provider (ISP) in the country concerned. You could also install software onto your computer that would block out these sites – see the Top Tips box.
Chat rooms can be misused because you can't see the person you're chatting with. It's easy to fake an identity online, so you can't be certain who you're communicating with. When using a chat room, keep your personal details (including photos) to yourself. Be wary of going to meet someone you've been talking to in a chat room. If you witness or experience improper activity in a chat room, contact the police.
Online bullying, harassment and cyber-stalking
Bullying or harassment can happen by email or in chat rooms. If you're a child or young person, make sure you tell someone you trust, for example, your parents or a teacher. Make a record of the dates and times you receive any threatening emails and report them to the police. Change your email address if you keep getting nasty messages. You can report the emails to your Internet Service Provider (ISP). Address the complaint to abuse@ISPname, for example, email@example.com.
If you are concerned about online bullying, Bullying UK may be able to help, visit their site at: www.bullying.co.uk.
It's illegal for online gambling websites to allow anyone under 18 to gamble. It's also illegal for someone under 18 to gamble with money, credit cards or debit cards. However many online gambling websites do not make checks to stop under-18s from gambling. If you're a parent whose child has lost money by gambling under-age, you can report it to the police. However, the police won't be able to take any action unless the website is based in the UK – and many of them aren't.
If you have problems with gambling, Gamcare may be able to help, visit their site at: www.gamcare.org.uk
Other useful information
The Internet Watch Foundation
The IWF works with the government, the police and internet companies to remove illegal content from the internet. You can report illegal material on their website at: www.iwf.org.uk.
If you're a child or young person who's being groomed or abused through the internet, contact Childline on: 0800 1111.If you're concerned about a child being abused, you could contact the child protection information line at: www.infoscotland.com/childprotection or phone: 0800 022 3222.
To find details of your local police force:Website: www.scottish.police.uk
The Home Office
The Home Office has a website for children about safety and the internet at: www.thinkuknow.co.uk.