Tips on how to stay safe online during the COVID-19 pandemic

Being out, trans or gender diverse online

Going online can give you a vital source of support and information on LGBTQI+ issues that you might not be getting elsewhere. But it can also expose you to extra risks.

These tips will help you stay safe while you explore online, find information about issues and connect with others. 

Dealing with cyberbullying

LGBTQI+ people are more likely to be bullied both online and offline. If you are being harassed, judged or made to feel bad about yourself because you are LGBTQI+, remember that you don’t deserve it — the problem is other people’s ignorance and intolerance.

It is not just LGBTQI+ people who are affected by homophobic or transphobic abuse online. Sometimes kids or adults label someone as ‘gay’ or use homophobic or transphobic slurs to bully them. 

What to do

If you see or experience homophobic or transphobic abuse, you don’t have to put up with it. 

If it feels safe to do so, you may like to try asking the person who posted the content online to delete it. You can also report homophobic and transphobic content to the app or site where it appeared (even if it’s not directed towards you). Find info on how to report abusive content to common social media services, games, apps and other platforms in The eSafety Guide.

If the site or service doesn’t remove the abusive content and you are under 18, you can report serious cyberbullying to eSafety. We will help get it removed and give you advice on what to do next.  

If you need further support or just want to talk to someone who understands what you are going through, you can connect with a counselling or support service.
 

Making connections online

There are plenty of ways LGBTQI+ young people use the internet to connect with each other.

For example:

  • doing a search to find out about online or local community events for LGBTQI+ young people
  • joining an LGBTQI+ online group or forum
  • joining an LGBTQI+ online gaming community
  • chatting to other LGBTQI+ young people using social media apps. 

Privacy settings and personal information

No matter how you connect with others, make sure you take steps to protect yourself.

The first step should always be to check the privacy settings on all your accounts and limit who can see information and contact you. Don’t share personal details like your full name, address and phone number in your profile. Avoid telling anyone online personal information like where you live, study, play sport, work or go to relax — at least until you know them very well. Even then, you should be super careful.

Watch out!

Socialising online comes with some risks apart from cyberbullying. These risks range from being contacted by someone you don’t feel comfortable about, right through to being scammed, stalked or tricked into sex. Sometimes LGBTQI+ people are targeted.

Here are some dangers to watch out for — click on the links to find more information.

'Unwanted contact' is when you feel uncomfortable or upset about a stranger or someone you know contacting you online, or sending you a message, photo or video that you don’t want (including dick pics).

‘Catfishing’ is when someone sets up a fake profile or pretends to be someone you know (or even a celebrity) so they can trick you into a fake relationship. They may catfish you because they think it’s funny or because they want to be mean and make you feel bad about yourself. They may encourage you to tell them your secrets so they can embarrass you by sharing them with others. They could even try to get you to share your personal details so they can scam you or steal your identity.

‘Image-based abuse’ is when someone shares (or threatens to share) a nude photo or video of you online, which is illegal if you are under 18. It is also illegal when you are 18+, if you have not given your permission for the intimate content to be shared. They may do it to be mean, to boast or to blackmail you into sending them money or more intimate images. Scammers sometimes target LGBTQI+ people, threatening to ‘out’ them to family, friends and other contacts.

‘Grooming’ is when someone builds a secret online friendship with a young person to trick or persuade them into getting sexual. Often they pretend to be someone the same age, but they are much older. At first they may seem very nice, but it’s just to make you think you can trust them. They may talk about your appearance and body and very private topics. They could start sending pictures or videos they say are ‘sexy’. Then they ask you to send nude photos or get intimate over a webcam. They may record and share this content with other abusers who stalk children and young people (these people are known as ‘paedophiles’). It can be very scary and make you feel upset and unsafe for a long time, especially if the photos or videos show up online.

Signs that an online friend may be 'fishy' or fake

  • They don’t seem to use their social media accounts much.
  • The way they chat or act does not seem to match their profile. 
  • They seem to know a lot about you and be interested in all the same things.
  • They want you to send photos or live videos of yourself but always have excuses for their own webcam not working, so you can’t check what they really look like.

TIP: If things don’t seem right, use a Google reverse image search to check that their profile image is not somewhere else online under a different name.

Check out more signs to look for and tips for protecting yourself from unsafe or unwanted contact

Online dating

A common way for LGBTQI+ adults to meet is through dating apps and sites, but they are generally for people who are 18 and over. They can be risky, so it’s best to steer clear of them until you are old enough.

LGBTQI+ online dating apps and sites are sometimes highly sexualised spaces where adults are looking to get into sexually explicit chat or to hook up. Some people use online dating to connect with people so they can scam them, stalk them or trick them into sex.

Being young and new to online dating can lead to you being pressured into sending nudes, or joining in sexual activity before you are ready. As well as making you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, this can be illegal. 

  • Lying about your own age can put you at real risk, so stay truthful. It can also get the adult you are talking to into trouble. 
  • When making friends online ensure they are a similar age to you. Look out for things that don’t add up, such as their online profile not matching what you see and hear when you message or chat with them. 
  • Remember, it is always OK to say no if someone asks you to do something you don’t want to do, or if you don’t trust what they are telling you.

Find more tips about online dating.
 

Making connections in person

It is best to talk to a parent or another trusted adult if you are planning to meet up with someone in person who you have connected with online.

If you decide to go ahead, follow these tips to improve your personal safety:

  • Always meet and stay in a busy public place.
  • Tell someone else the name of the person you are meeting, where you are going and when you will be back — and stay in touch so they know you are OK.
  • Take your (fully charged) mobile phone with you.
  • Stay sober and look out for anything suspicious.
  • Don’t be afraid to leave if you feel uncomfortable or unsafe.

What to do if things get weird

There’s a lot of help available — click on the links to find more information.

  • If you run into trouble or something makes you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, it’s really important you tell an adult you trust. You can also reach out to a LGBTQI+ support service.
  • If someone online is making you feel uncomfortable, use your app, social media or game settings to report or block them — The eSafety Guide has info about how to do this.
  • If someone is pressuring you to send nudes don’t give in to them. Ask them to stop. If they keep pressuring you, report and block them. 
  • If someone shares (or threatens to share) an intimate, nude or sexual photo or video of you, you can make an image-based abuse report to eSafety. Find out more about image-based abuse and read the image-based abuse quick guide for LGBTQI+ people.
  • If someone is seriously cyberbullying you, you can report them to eSafety — we can help remove abusive content online.
  • Phone and online counselling services have people who are specially trained to give you personal support:
    • Kids Helpline — counselling and online support for kids and teenagers.
    • eheadspace — online chat and support for young people (12 to 25).
    • 1800RESPECT — counselling and support for sexual abuse and domestic and family violence.

 

NOTE: This page is for young people. Advice and support for lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer and/or intersex adults is also available.

Online safety advice and support for LGBTQI+ people and communities.