Staying safe in the world of catfishing, cyberbullying, and trolling online

When it comes to the internet, you can never be too careful. As new platforms arise for connecting and sharing photos, it’s important to think through how we can be careful and stay safe online.

1. Report cyberbullying
Cyberbullying is far too common, but many of us don’t know what to do when we see it happening. If you or a friend are bullied online (in the comments of an image, in private messages, in photos being posted of them, etc), here’s what you can do:

  • Don’t respond
  • Screenshot the evidence-comments, posts, messages.
  • Report the bullying on Instagram and Facebook. For more information on where to report and how, visit
  • If the messages involve threats of violence, porn, stalking, or hate crime language, you can report it directly to local law enforcement.

2. Beware of catfishes
Though many social media, online dating, and other networking apps have taken measures to prevent “catfishes,” using a fake profile online is still common and something to watch out for. Urban Dictionary defines a catfish as “someone who pretends to be someone they’re not using Facebook or other social media to create false identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances.

Common signs of catfishes are: photos or videos are low-res or look like screenshots, unwillingness to meet in person, and strange or shady answers to common questions.

Just like you would with a stranger in real life, trust your gut instinct and don’t consider meeting someone in person, sharing any personal information, or communicating regularly if you aren’t confident about their identity or their trustworthiness.

For more information on detecting a catfish, read this article on Trustify.

3. To share or not to share?
It’s so much fun to share those adorable photos and videos of your kids – but will it put them at risk for “digital kidnapping”? Not necessarily, but you can never be too careful on the internet, especially when it comes to your kids. There have been far too many stories of kids’ photos getting in the wrong hands online, and being stolen and repurposed by trolls or pedophiles.

If you post photos of your kids online, here are simple precautions to take:

  • Set your profile to private (on Instagram) and check your privacy settings (on Facebook), so that only those you trust can access your photos.
  • Set up a private group for sharing photos through an encrypted platform like WhatsApp, iMessage, or Flickr.
  • Don’t share photos of your children without clothes.
  • Make sure you’re posting photos that your kids will be comfortable seeing online when they are older.