Social Media and the Law


Type of Resource


Publication Date

June 22, 2023


Digital Wellbeing 

To keep safe online, young people need to understand the role of social media in the offline world. It’s key for them to know that their actions online can have very real consequences offline.

An innocent post on social media can be taken seriously by the police. Not knowing the law, or saying it was ‘just a joke’ can still land a young person in trouble with the law.

Make sure young people understand that the anonymity and distance provided by online spaces does not give them permission to say mean things – many adults fall into this trap.

young people on phones

Young people can get into trouble if:

  • They share or repost a false rumour online about someone that damages their reputation. This is called libel.
  • They continuously harass, scare or annoy someone online, and refuse to leave them alone. This is called harassment.
  • They threaten someone online or say that you are going to harm or hurt them.
  • They make offensive comments that are outrageous about something sensitive or personal.

Helping young people understand the following rules of social media will help them stay safe online. Explain to them why it’s important to:

  • Avoid being nasty or offensive about sensitive topics in the news.
  • Avoid trolling people- if their words are offensive offline, they will be online.
  • Avoid joking about serious criminal activity like bombs, riots and terrorist or cyber-attacks.
  • Never give details that might damage ongoing court cases. This includes evidence, statements about someone’s character or previous crimes.
  • You should also NEVER name any victims in ongoing court cases.

If you or a young person sees something online that might be illegal- check out the online reporting page to find out how to report it.

Welcome to the Online Safety Hub

How old are you?

If you are under 18, click the blue button below to visit the Online Safety Hub micro-site for children and young people.