Digital boundaries: The online world comes with so... - Mencap


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Digital boundaries


The online world comes with so many amazing possibilities. Opportunities to connect with people you would never usually connect to if not for dating apps, social media and forums. Share things we are interested in and find like minded people, play games, be creative the list goes on!

It is important to consider the online world in a balanced way, there are benefits and there are risks not dissimilar to the ‘real’ world. Therefore, when addressing things like online safety and boundaries with young people we need to present balanced view points.

Having conversations is vital in supporting young people to stay safe online. Leading the conversation with open questions, taking a genuine interest in what their online lives are like in a non judgemental way can give you a good insight into your child/ young person behaviour online. You will probably end up learning something new!

I wanted to give some quick do’s and don’ts on talking to young people about digital boundaries

•Do ask questions. Open, genuinely interested questions for example

oWhat do you enjoy doing online?

oWhat are the best things about it?

oWhat are some things you don’t like about it?

oAre there any risks you know about?

oDo you have any tips for me about how to stay safe? Where did you learn these tips?

oWhat things are ‘ok’ to share and what things are not?

Once you have some more information and know about the apps and online content your child accesses you can always check dangers of certain apps on Net aware

This gives you a better understanding of the risks surrounding apps you may not be familiar with and inform your conversations!

•Do reassure them that they can always come to you if they see anything that upsets them online. Do they know where to find the safety advice, privacy settings and how to report or block on the services they use.

•Do model digital boundaries. We learn an awful lot from observing. A great way to engage and discuss digital boundaries is by creating a family agreement. This can be done with children of any age and helps them to have ownership over the conversation. An example of a digital boundary you could include in a family agreement is “can you ask me before you tag me in a photo on Facebook.” This demonstrates boundaries and consent in a digital space.

Here is a link to childnets version on the family agreement

•Don’t worry if you don’t know the terms. Language and slang is constantly evolving and changing. If you don’t know a word just ask what it means, we also have a glossary of terms specifically about online dating on our website which could come in handy!

•Don’t let this be a one off conversation. Things are changing all the time and so will your child or young persons online life. It’s important to talk regularly

Emily Yates of Enhance The UK shared her experiences of online dating with a disability with us, here’s a link to the page

Feel free to leave questions relating to digital boundaries below!

5 Replies

Thank you for this great post Amber.

If you'd like to hear from Amber she is our expert this week (14 to 18 September 2020) on anything to do with relationships and sexual health. Have a look here -



Great post. It has got me thinking about my brother (who has an ld). He is beginning to date (in his 40s). There is no one specific at the moment but he is giving it a go. This has all be curtailed by coronavirus but he is happy but I think he finds it very exciting. Staying safe online is an issue (he uses online dating apps). I wonder how well he would understand the signs (positive and negative) from other people. I also worry that is he is bit vulnerable and other people could take advantage. Thanks. Jo

Amber_BrookExpert in reply to jow2319

Hi Jo,

I’m glad your brother is happy and excited by trying something new. Online dating apps can work for lots of people. It’s good to remember most people on dating apps are there with good intentions just like in the ‘real’ world. But it is important for everyone to be aware of the risks and how to minimise the risks.

It might be worth gauging how much your brother knows about using dating services safely, because he might already have some ideas! See our web page with tops on how to make contact, meet up and reporting things you think are not safe.

You could also link this to your brother or offer to go through it with him!


My question is very similar to another one about internet dating and making sure it is safe and appropriate. My mind boggles when I think what my daughter could get up to. Part of me things good on her – but the other part wants to protect her. She is 18 now but isn’t very mature.

She just doesn’t want to miss out.

Amber_BrookExpert in reply to Growbag45

Hi there,

I would say that the above post and link to staying safe online dating would be really useful for having these discussions. Making the information accessible and allowing your daughter to talk about it and ask questions if she wants to.

Having conversations about how to stay safe online and keeping communications open is the best way to ensure to allow your daughter to make her own decisions but they are informed and she knows where to go if she needs support.

Also, sometimes it can be helpful for to work out if there are other people in your daughters life who could have these conversations too. Older siblings, family members she is close to, friends, support workers.

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