Online safety

Last updated: 06 Feb 2017
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Online technology continues to advance and change the way people communicate and interact on a daily basis.

Sports organisations, coaches and others involved in providing activities for children and young people are increasingly using the internet and social media to promote sport and communicate with them.

These forms of digital media and communication can provide great benefits. However, they can also pose potential safeguarding risks to children and young people.

We have produced this guidance to ensure that sports clubs are doing all they can to ensure children and young people are safeguarded from harm when using online media.

Related resources

  • see our online-safety resources by clicking on the tab above left (or below, on mobile devices)
  • check out our webinar, Keeping children safe online 

Advice for children and parents

Potential risks

‘Young people should be able to use the internet without worrying about being shown inappropriate material, or being abused or bullied.’
– young person, as reported by the NSPCC Participation Unit

Potential risks for young people

Online safety risks for young people can include, but are not limited to:

  • posting personal information that can identify and locate a child offline
  • sexual grooming, luring, exploitation and abuse, and inappropriate or unwanted contact
  • exposure to inappropriate content, including pornography, racist or hate material or violent behaviour
  • glorifying activities such as drug taking or excessive drinking

What online safety means in sport

Activity in the online world can affect a young person’s enjoyment or performance in sport, both positively and negatively.

Negative experiences online could ultimately affect a young person’s willingness to take part in sport. So it's important that your club or organisation takes precautions to minimise these risks.

Creating a safer online environment

Follow these steps to help ensure a safe online environment for children and young people:

  • have an online safety policy and/or acceptable use statement
  • have specific procedures and specific codes of conduct for young people and staff to follow
  • ensure that everyone involved – including coaches, volunteers, administrators, parents and children – understands and complies with their responsibilities within these policies
Social media
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Social networking services, more commonly referred to as social media, allows users to create their own content and share it with a vast network of individuals.

Online social media sites – such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – enable interaction between groups of people with similar interests and hobbies.

Social media users establish an online ‘profile’ on a social media site or app (on mobile devices), containing information about themselves. This might include personal information such as their name, photographs, social activities or hobbies and interests.

What social media means for sport

Social media provides unique opportunities for sports organisations to engage and develop relationships with people in a creative and dynamic forum where users are active participants.

It's widely used to promote sports activities, campaigns and events. Groups, clubs and other sports organisations also use it to communicate with coaches, officials and participants (including young people) regarding club news.

With the development of mobile devices, it opens up new ways for organisations and young people to communicate quickly and more informally.

Potential risks to young people

The same potential risks that are found in the online world – see the tab above-left (or below, on mobile devices) – apply to social media. Additional risks include:

  • bullying or berating by peers and people they consider ‘friends’ – in sport this can include negative comments or reactions to their performance or achievement
  • being encouraged to create or share inappropriate or harmful material of themselves or others, including sexting (sexual images or video)
  • encouragement to take part in violent behaviour or harmful trends
  • communicating with people they don’t know, including potentially dangerous individuals

How to minimise the risks

  • ensure staff and volunteers have a general knowledge of the types of technology, sites or applications young people may be using
  • address the safeguards that affect young people by developing clear guidelines for them to follow
  • develop guidance and advice for staff and volunteers to ensure that interactions with users take place in an appropriate manner
  • be clear about what you want to achieve by using social media
  • make sure staff and volunteers are aware of this when choosing to post or share content
  • develop an acceptable use statement and/or online safety policy for your club or organisation that includes social media

You also need to have procedures and specific codes of conduct in place to promote a safe online environment for children and young people.


The digital world is rapidly evolving – here, we highlight sport-specific resources for safeguarding children online, and point you towards the parts of the NSPCC website where you can keep up with what you need to know about online safety.

Help for young people

  • Online and mobile safety – Childline's advice for children and young people on using the web
  • Zipit app - Childline have developed a free app to advice young people what they can do if they're asked for nude photos

Information for parents and carers

  • NSPCC's online safety pages – helpful information on talking to your child about staying safe online
  • Net Aware – information and advice for parents from the NSPCC and O2
  • Share Aware – encourages parents to understand online safety and talk to their children about keeping safe

CPSU resources

Further NSPCC resources

  • Keeping children safe online course – an online introductory course for anyone working with children, developed by the NSPCC and CEOP
  • Online abuse – guidance on identifying abuse, and where to access relevant support and resources to help
  • Online safety advice – helpful advice and tools you can use to help keep children safe whenever and wherever they go online
  • Sexting – advice on talking to children about the risks of sexting and what you can do to protect them

Other useful resources and websites