Information Services

Definitions and Background

Information on what digital safety, wellbeing and citizenship entail and why these issues should be at the forefront of everyone’s minds here at the University of Edinburgh.

What is “digital safety”?

Digital safety is everyone’s business here at the University. You may have come across this term under other names, such as online safety, e-safety or cyber safety, all of which refer to staying safe online.

University students engage with multiple digital technologies on a day-to-day basis, but with increased connectivity comes increased risk and it’s important to recognise the myriad threats that you might encounter while engaging online, such as:

  • Online harassment and cyberbullying
  • False information, or “fake news”
  • Online fraud and scams (e.g. phishing and social engineering)
  • Malware (e.g. ransomware, adware, and viruses)

Such digital threats can compromise your privacy, reputation and even physical safety, so it’s important to be critical and cautious in order to safeguard yourself and those around you. Our Information Security team has put together some helpful resources on what you can do to protect your information, as well as some guidance on good practice. This is especially valuable information if you’re a new student.

Information Security Guidance on Protecting Yourself

What is "digital wellbeing"?

As digital engagement forms an integral part of hybrid work and study, it’s important to take measures to safeguard your digital wellbeing, which Jisc defines as "the impact of technologies and digital services on people's mental, physical, social and emotional health." Top tips for prioritising your digital wellbeing include: 

  1. Check your privacy settings – This is especially important if you use one or more forms of social media. As we spend more of our time engaging with others online, it’s important to know who has access to your posts and personal information. To keep yourself safe and secure, it’s good practice to review your privacy settings every few months.
  2. Review your location services – While we might not be venturing far from home during the Coronavirus pandemic, it’s still important to review how much access your digital devices have to your location. Perform a quick check to see if location services are enabled in each of your apps and ask yourself if it’s necessary that these applications have access to your geographical information.
  3. Use wellbeing controls – Many devices and platforms now offer options that help you manage the time you spend online. If you’re finding it increasingly difficult to separate work and study from your down time, simply turning off notifications or activating “do not disturb” can make a world of difference.
  4. Set your own boundaries online – Being constantly bombarded by news reports and social media posts can take a toll on your mental health. If you’re feeling anxious or fatigued, setting your own boundaries online might help you manage your digital wellbeing. Only engage with what you’re comfortable engaging with online and take regular breaks from social media if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
  5. Be an active bystander (if it is safe for you to do so) – With so much activity happening online, it’s important that we support one another in virtual spaces. If you’ve witnessed cyberbullying behaviours online you can report the issue to the platform, though sometimes even sending a personal message to victims of online harassment can make all the difference.

Mental Health Support

If you require support for your wellbeing, the University provides several online resources, including Big White Wall, the Feeling Good App, and SilverCloud. Please visit the University's self-help hub for more information on accessing these resources. 

University of Edinburgh Self-Help Hub 

What is “digital citizenship”?

Digital citizenship refers to the responsible use of technology to learn, create and participate online. As a member of the University of Edinburgh community it’s your social responsibility to be a good digital citizen, which means treating others with dignity and respect. In the following video, Dr. Vicki Madden, former Digital Safety Support Officer in the Digital Skills and Training team at the University of Edinburgh, explains the concept of digital citizenship in more detail. 

Video: What is digital citizenship?
Dr. Vicki Madden, Digital Safety Support Officer in the Digital Skills and Training team, explains the concept of Digital Citizenship.

Police Scotland and Cyber Scotland Advice

In an effort to tackle the rise in internet-related crime, Police Scotland are promoting the following advice in partnership with Cyber Scotland and Get Safe Online. Please help spread the word and keep our community safe by signposting to the following resources where you can. The leaflets below contain helpful information on online financial transactions and digital identity and responsibility, among other important topics.

Get Safe Online: Your top tips for keeping safe online (PDF)

Get Safe Online: Your top student online safety tips (PDF)

Reporting Abuse to Police Scotland

Do not engage with the bully but keep upsetting emails, messages and posts as evidence for reporting. Report serious abuse, such as threats of physical harm or violence, to the police.

Police Scotland: Guidance on Internet Safety

Reporting Online Abuse

If you or someone you know has been the victim of online harassment, cyberbullying or hate crime, block the abuser and report the abuse to your internet service provider (ISP), mobile phone provider (if bullying occurs via text/calls), or social media site/app. More information is available via the links below.

Get Safe Online: Information on Online Abuse

Family Lives: Dealing with cyberbullying

Family Lives: Bullying on social networks

Students’ Association Guidance on Bullying and Harassment

Everyone, everywhere has the right to be treated with dignity and respect. The Edinburgh University Students’ Association offers confidential advice and support for online harassment and hate crime through the Advice Place, a Third Party Reporting site.

Students' Association Guidance on Bullying and Harassment


© Victoria Madden, Shivani Rao, University of Edinburgh, 2022, CC BY-SA 4.0, unless otherwise indicated. The Digital Safety and Citizen resource pages are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike licence, unless otherwise indicated.  For licence permissions of linked resources outwith the university, please check the host website.