With people spending more time at home, it’s the ideal time to familarise yourself with how to connect online safely. There’s dozens of video calling services that are free, easy to use and lets you talk to your family and friends right from your phone or computer. We’ve explained what they are, explained the risks and provided our best tips to help you stay safe while doing it.


Our best advice is to check with your whānau and friends to see what messaging and video call services they’re all using. If the service they use is not available on your device, there are several free alternatives that you can consider together.  If you are using an older device you may need to use a separate webcam and microphone.

Getting started with video calling and online messaging is similar to most other services – understand what platform you want to use and then register an account. At a minimum you’ll need a an email address or phone number that you can register as your username. You might also need to nominate a unique password to keep the account private.

The other person, or people, you’re hoping to connect with will also need to have an account with the same service. Here how you can get started on some of the most popular ones including Facebook Messenger, FaceTime, Skype and Zoom.

Getting started with Facebook Messenger

  1. Download the app for iOS or Android, or go to the website here
  2. You can sign up by registering your information or you can skip this step if have a Facebook account already
  3. Sign in to the app or website using your account
  4. If you haven’t enabled it already, you can make the account more secure with two-factor authentication by following these instructions
  5. Once you’re set up you can use your contact list to find your friends and family
  6. You can find tips for staying safe when using Facebook Messenger on the Safety Centre

Getting started with FaceTime
FaceTime is different to other messaging services in that you will need an Apple device like an iPhone, iPad or Macbook to use the service.

  • On an iPhone or iPad it’s as simple as opening the FaceTime app and adding your iCloud account. You’ll be able to use FaceID or TouchID to do this if you’ve already set it up on the device
  • On a Mac computer you’ll need to open the FaceTime app and login using your iCloud email address and password
  • To make the FaceTime call, search for the name of the person you’re wanting to connect with and then select Audio or Video call

Getting started with Skype

  1. Download the app for iOS or Android, or go to the website here
  2. After opening the app, it will prompt you to create an account. If you have a Microsoft/Hotmail/ Outlook account, you can use this to sign in to Skype
  3. Sign in to the app using your account
  4. If you use a Microsoft account to log in to Skype, you can make the account more secure with two-factor authentication by following these instructions.
  5. Once you’re set up you can search for friends and family who already use Skype
  6. You can read tips for staying safe from Skype here

Getting started with Zoom

Zoom operates ‘meeting rooms’. You don’t need an account to join a Zoom call just a meeting ID sent by your friend or whānau. Get into Zoom with our advice.

  1. Open your web browser (Chrome/Safari/Internet Explorer)
  2. Go to https://zoom.us/join
  3. Enter your meeting ID provided by your host
  4. Click Join
  5. If this is your first time joining, you will be asked to open the Zoom client to join the meeting.
  6. Click ‘Open Zoom Meetings’

To host a meeting, you will need to create an account

  1. Download the app for iOS or Android, or go to the website here
  2. After opening the app, click Sign In
  3. You can use Google or Facebook to log in to Zoom, otherwise click Sign Up for Free
  4. Once you’ve logged in, click the downward arrow and select Start with video
  5. Click New Meeting to start an instant meeting
  6. You can make your account more secure with two-factor authentication by following these instructions


Most of the common video calling apps offer both iOS and Android versions, as well as installations for both Windows and Mac that can all connect with each other. Some of these services also have what’s called a web client where you can use a more limited version of the service just by going to their website.

Apps may look slightly different on different devices and there might be slightly different ways to sign in but the core functionality will be the same, they’ll still let you message, call or video call other people who use the same service.


When you’re connecting with people online you might be sent messages you never asked for. They might be scams, pictures, videos and other content from the internet that you don’t want to see.

Most scams on messaging services centre around scammers trying to trick people into clicking on links that lead to fake sites. There are even sites that can load malicious software (malware) onto your device that you’ll need to look out for. Our advice will help protect you from malware.

Other scams that you might come across can involve impersonation. For example, you might get a message from an account that looks like it belongs to someone you know, asking you to send money or private information back to them.

If you’re sent an intimate image that you never asked for and don’t want to see please see our information on what you need to know about unsolicited nudes.

Tips on how to stay safe

If you’re sent a message encouraging you to click a link, regardless of the reason given in the message, our advice is to always ignore the link in the message and to instead make your own way to the website the link claims to lead to. Keep in mind you’ll want to do this in a new internet browser window to keep yourself safe from scam sites.

For example if you get a message that claims to be about your Facebook account that includes a link to click on, you can open your internet browser, type ‘www.facebook.com’ and then log in. This way you can be sure you’re going to the right website. If there are any pending security notices that need your attention, these will be front and centre when the log in.

Similarly, if the message or link claims to be from an organisation that doesn’t have an online service, you can call the publicly listed phone number for them to ask if the message or link is genuine.

More advice

If you’ve accidentally followed a suspicious link from what you think could be a scam message you’ll need to do the following:

  • If any login credentials (email addresses, usernames, passwords) were submitted on the page the link led you to then the password for that account needs to be reset immediately.
  • If there are concerns malware has been loaded onto your device, our advice is to use a malware scanner that can find and remove them.

Netsafe doesn’t recommend a particular product but we have listed some options here from well-known, reputable companies.

If you have any other tips or experiences to share, let us know using the #stayconnectedstaysafe on social media.


If you’re concerned about the immediate safety of you or someone else, please call 111. If you want help or expert incident advice, you can contact us. Our service is free, non-judgemental and available seven days a week.


Follow us on social media and sign up to our newsletter for alerts, news and tips.  
Facebook   Twitter