Staying safe in an online world

During Health and Wellbeing Week 2021 we held an online safety webinar partnering with Matthew Parker from Safe & Secure Online about how to spot scams and phishing, as well as how staying safe online is important for your health and wellbeing. If you would like to watch this virtual event in full, click here, or go to the bottom of this article.

Just like in the offline world, when you're online it's important to think about your privacy and how to keep yourself safe. Even though app usage is higher in most people's daily online interactions than traditional websites, that does not mean that the basic internet safety rules are any different. Cyber criminals will still be on the lookout for any personal information they can use to access your credit card and bank information, be it names, locations or other personal details that can be gained through phishing techniques.

Unsafe surfing can also lead to other threats—from embarrassing personal comments or images that, once online, are nearly impossible to erase, leading to current employers/ family members/ partners finding unsavoury opinions you may have posted online in the past. Rule of thumb- If you wouldn't say it to someone's face, or hear it yourself, best not to say it at all!

Here are some online wellbeing rules to help you avoid getting into trouble online (and offline).

Check your privacy settings

Just because a site requires you to log in, this doesn't necessarily mean that your profile is entirely private – some parts might still be shown publicly.

Think about who will see what you share

For many people, that rant on Twitter can help elevate their stress or sharing their feelings online can be helpful during a difficult time. However, sometimes when they are feeling better, they regret how much they shared, or who they shared with. Before posting about your personal feelings, try to consider how you might feel about what you've shared, and with who, in the future. Very few sites are 100% private, and information is often shared online beyond your control, and sometimes used for fraud.

Protect your personal details

What you share online can affect both your privacy and the privacy of others, so it's important to think carefully about what you post. You should avoid posting your personal details online, like your address or telephone number. Remember that photos or geo check-ins can also give away personal information, not just written posts. If you think someone has used your information to commit fraud, such as opening a bank account or obtaining documents, you should report it as soon as you can to Action Fraud.

Dealing with triggering content

The internet is a vast place, and contains some great content and also some terrible content. If you come across something that upsets you, you might report it first but try not to dwell on it. You might even want to turn off your computer or mobile device and take a break. Some people find that using a distraction technique also helps, such as focusing on your breathing or talking to a friend.

Try to avoid online self-diagnosis

Although online resources can provide a wealth of information about mental health problems and treatments, they are not always accurate. Talking to your GP will always be the best way to find information regarding your health.

Tips for finding trustworthy information

Remember that not all the information you find online will be reliable, some stories and information may be in fact completely fictional. When reading online sources some useful questions to ask yourself are:

  • Who has written it and why?
  • Are they a reliable source?
  • Could they have a particular bias or agenda?
  • When was it written? Is it up to date?
  • Is this factual information, or is it someone's personal experience or opinion? What is true for someone else might not be true for you.

Getting the balance right between your online and offline life

Feel like you're using tech too much? Overuse of technology can throw our lives off kilt, interrupting work and social life, influencing our emotions and sleep patterns (read more about how tech interrupts our circadian rhythm here) as well as heightening anxiety and depression.

Are you:

  • Unable to put down your phone when doing other activities/jobs?
  • Losing track of time when you're on the internet? (We are all guilty of falling down the Twitter rabbit hole for an hour or so but that doesn't bode well for our mental health)
  • Are you checking your phone often through working/ social hours?
  • Unable to turn off tech at a responsible time in the evening?

If you answer ‘yes’ to any of the questions above, then it may be time to consider cutting down your screen time.

Create an internet-free zone in your home. This is as simple as telling yourself, no internet usage in certain rooms in your home like the bedroom, kitchen/ dining room (or any rooms you deem worthy. This allows you to give yourself a break from online life and be present with yourself and those around you.

Take regular breaks! Whenever you use your computer, you should take a break once an hour to stretch your legs and rest your eyes. Aside from helping to avoid eye strain and headaches, this helps to regulate your circadian rhythm which is key to your health and wellbeing.

Take an internet holiday. Pick a morning/evening, or even an entire day and don't go online. Do engage in other rest activities ie, reading a book or engaging in arts and crafts.

Meet up with others in real life, and do something active with friends and family like games or sports (or simply a cup of tea) so you can give yourself a break and cultivate your relationships.


If you would like more tips on how to stay safe online and how to spot scams and phishing, watch the health and wellbeing webinar below.

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