Staying safe online

The Voice in the Community project looks at how communities can work together to protect the most vulnerable in our society. Crucially, the project puts those with learning disabilities right at the centre of things.

All the members of the reference group have a learning disability and their role is to make sure the voice of people with learning disabilities is heard throughout the course of the project.

The reference group met up recently and discussed safety issues relating to the internet and the use of social media for people with learning disabilities.

The key themes discussed were:

A number of the people in the group felt worried that they would be targeted by aggressive or unkind people on social media. One of the panellists had agreed to meet a stranger in real life having been contacted by them on Facebook, but (luckily) changed his mind on the way there.

The best, and simplest, idea that came out of the whole thing was that you should only ever accept friend requests from people who you know and like. We used the analogy that accepting them on Facebook is a bit like inviting them into your virtual home, so you should think carefully about whether they are a trustworthy person who is known to you already.

  • We talked about the importance of understanding and using your privacy settings on Facebook and Twitter.
  • We talked about keeping personal information like your address, phone number and email address private on social media.
  • We talked about how to block or ‘unfriend’ someone who is being unkind or making you feel uncomfortable (or unsafe) on social media.
  • We talked about how to create a strong password – many of the group were very afraid of getting hacked.
  • We talked about how to tackle spam and phishing emails, as often people with learning disabilities are more vulnerable to this sort of attack.
  • The group plan to produce a set of guidelines for people to follow to stay safe when using the internet and social media plus a separate guide specifically relating to spam and phishing emails and how to be aware of and avoid this type of harassment.