It is very important for you as a parent to be regularly informed as to the benefits and potential risks of the internet and social media. The internet is always changing, and being able to keep up to date with your children’s use of technology can sometimes be a challenge. You may sometimes feel that your children have better technical skills than you do, but children and young people still need advice and protection when it comes to managing their lives online and using the internet positively and safely.
A good starting point is to watch this video created by ParentZone. Children need to be aware of the impact that their online activity can have on both themselves and other people, and the digital footprints that they create on the internet. These footprints can be perceived positively or negatively by people viewing the content, and for young people this may have a longer term impact on their online reputation, well-being and future career prospects. It’s easy to feel anonymous online and it’s important that children are aware of who is able to view, and potentially share, the information that they may have posted. When using the internet, it’s important to keep personal information safe and think carefully about who information is shared with. If your child uses services that include privacy settings then support them in putting these in place to ensure they have greater control over who can see their messages, photos and other content posted online. Discuss with your child the importance of reporting inappropriate conversations, messages, images and behaviours and how this can be done. Remind them that they can always tell an adult if something online has worried or upset them.
What to do if you have a concern
It is important for children to realise that new friends made online may not be who they say they are and that once a friend is added to an online account, they may be sharing their personal information with them. Regularly reviewing friends/followers lists and removing unwanted contacts is a useful step. Privacy settings online may also allow you to customise the information that each friend is able to access. Remind your child to always tell you or another trusted adult if they ever receive any messages from other users that try to coerce or persuade them to do anything that makes them feel worried or uncomfortable.
If you have concerns that your child is, or has been, the subject of inappropriate sexual contact or approach by another person, it’s vital that you report it to the police via the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre www.ceop.police.uk.
If your child is the victim of cyberbullying, this can also be reported online and offline. Remind your child that they should save all the messages, photos and other content received as evidence, and should never retaliate against malicious comments made towards them online. Reinforce with your child the importance of telling a trusted adult if someone is bullying them or making them feel uncomfortable, or if one of their friends is being bullied online.
In addition, inform the Designated Safeguarding Lead at school
What you can do right now
There are real advantages in maintaining an open dialogue with your child about their internet use, encourage them to talk to you about their time online; for example who they’re talking to, what services they are using, and any issues that they may be experiencing. You can do the following:
- Create a family agreement to establish your children’s boundaries, and your expectations, when on the internet. Give your child strategies to deal with any online content that they are not comfortable with – such as turning off the screen, telling an adult they trust and using online reporting facilities. A template agreement and guide can be downloaded from here
- Consider using filtering software to block unwanted content. In addition to filtering, remember that discussion with your child, and involvement in their internet use, are both effective ways to educate them about the internet
- Encourage your children to ‘think before you post.’ Online actions can impact not only yourself but the lives of others. Content posted privately online can be publicly shared by others, and may remain online forever
- Understand the law. Some online behaviour may break the law, for example when comments online threaten or incite hatred
- Familiarise yourself with the privacy settings and reporting features available on popular sites and services
- If your child is being bullied online, save all available evidence and know where to report the incident, for example to the school, service provider, or the police if the law has been broken
- Familiarise yourself with the age ratings for games and apps which can help to indicate the level and suitability of the content. Also see if online reviews are available from other parents as these may be helpful
- Encourage your children to protect their personal information, and create strong passwords for every account
Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP)
The Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre is dedicated to eradicating the sexual abuse of children. That means they are part of UK policing and they focus on tracking and bringing offenders to account either directly or in partnership with local and international forces. As parents, you can also report concerns and abuse directly and you will find a click-through button (seen below) to CEOP on most social networking sites as well as in instant messaging and other interactive software.
is a non-profit organisation working in partnership with others around the world to help make the internet a great and safe place for children. The Childnet website hosts all the online resources detailed below, as well as a number of recommended resources for young people, parents, carers and teachers. The Parents and Carers area also contains key advice, information on reporting and detailed information on a range of e-safety topics in the Hot topics section.
Two key guides are:
Supporting Young People Online
A free guide providing Information and advice for parents and carers on supporting young people online. The advice is also available in 12 additional languages including Arabic, Hindi, Polish, Spanish, Urdu and Welsh.
Keeping Young Children Safe Online
This link – www.childnet.com/sns – aims to help parents understand the positive and creative ways young people are using social networking spaces (e.g. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram). It also points out the potential risks of using these sites and ways to minimise these risks.
A national family support charity providing help and support in all aspects of family life. They are focusing increasingly on digital relationships.
Useful advice and information is available online at www.familylives.org.uk and they provide a free confidential helpline on 0808 800 2222.
Internet Watch Foundation
The UK’s hotline for reporting illegal content found on the internet. It deals specifically with child abuse and criminally obscene images hosted in the UK and internationally. The IWF works in partnership with the online industry, law enforcement, government, and international partners. It is a charity and a self-regulatory body with over 100 Members from the online industry.
National Online Safety
Produce weekly online safely guides for parents about children’s internet usage.
Gives regular advice for parents. You can read their articles on the embedded feed below:
Safer Internet Day
Celebrated globally every year, Safer Internet Day offers the opportunity offers the opportunity to highlight positive uses of technology and to explore the role we all play in helping to create a better and safer online community. It calls upon young people, parents, carers, teachers, social workers, law enforcement, companies, policymakers, and wider, to join together and play their part for a better internet.
South West Grid for Learning (SWGfL)
A not for profit, charitable trust dedicated to the advancement of education through information and communication technologies. They provide safe, supported broadband internet, teaching and learning services for 2,500 schools in the South West of England and e-safety education and training regionally, nationally and internationally. They provide professionals, parents and children with advice, resources and support to use internet technologies safely to enhance learning and maximise potential. Their ‘So you got naked online’ has been particularly useful to parents and schools.
This is run by CEOP. This website contains information for children and parents, as well as a link for children to report abuse online.
Content which incites hatred on the grounds of race, religion and sexual orientation can be reported to True Vision; a UK website set up to tackle all forms of hate crime, including those on the grounds of disability and transgender identity.
UK Safer Internet Centre
The European Commission appointed UK Safer Internet Centre is made up of three partners; Childnet International, the South West Grid for Learning and the Internet Watch Foundation. Together they raise awareness about internet safety, develop information materials and resources and organise high profile events such as Safer Internet Day.
You can access a range of resources from across the UK, Europe and further afield at www.saferinternet.org.uk/parents.
A key guide on modern technology can be found at www.saferinternet.org.uk/parent-tech.
The four big internet providers - BT, Sky, Talk Talk and Virgin Media - provide their customers with free parental controls that can be activated at any time. Video tutorials on how to download and use these controls are available on this website too – www.saferinternet.org.uk/parental-controls
This link www.saferinternet.org.uk/checklists provides free guides that contain detailed instructions and information on privacy and account settings on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram.
Gives a useful guide to digital parenting. It stresses that some online content is not suitable for children. Some content is intended for adults, such as pornographic websites and gambling websites. Other content may be hurtful or harmful such as content expressing extreme views or promoting harmful behaviour. This content could be accessed and viewed via social networks, online games, apps, blogs and websites. There are filtering options that can be activated on home broadband connections and controls on individual devices that can restrict the content children may discover online. These may be useful tools for your family but it is important to also discuss with your children what they might see online. It’s important for children to consider the reliability of online material and be aware that it might not be true or written with a bias. Encourage your child to think critically about what they read online and to check several websites when searching for information.