Online safety for pre-teens (11-13)

Guidance for parents and carers

As pre-teens become more independent with their move to secondary school, they become more confident internet users with more varied habits. The internet offers them many benefits, so it’s vital to discuss online safety regularly.

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Supporting pre-teens online, 11-13. At this age, it's likely that your child will become more independent, spending more time online gaming, chatting, and browsing. So, it's vital to continue to talk to them about online safety. This will help equip them with coping strategies to deal with any online risks they face and help them be happy and healthy online.

Here's what you can do to help: Set up parental controls on your home broadband, as well as all internet-enabled devices that your child has access to. Many will have inbuilt controls to help you manage which apps and sites your child can access and for how long, helping you ensure their time online is positive and has a purpose. Our setup safe parental control guides will walk you through the steps so you can get set up in just a few minutes.

Get them involved when setting controls so they feel part of the process. Make sure to review them as they grow and become more active online. As the internet rapidly becomes a more regular part of your child's daily life, make sure you enable safe search settings on popular sites that they're using, like Google and YouTube. Set boundaries or have a family contract to set their expectations for the sites and apps they can use, remembering that you are a role model and they will copy what they see you do. Encourage them to leave devices outside the bedroom at night and have regular screen-free family times.

There may be an increasing number of ways your child will be online: gaming consoles, personal assistants, laptops for school, as well as smartphones. So, stay interested in what they are doing, respecting their growing independence. Encourage them to use their devices in shared areas and set up a user account just for your child. Most children get their first smartphone before they are 12. But if you feel they aren't old enough, explain why and help them deal with any pressure from their peers to get a device to fit in.

Keep them safe on the move by making use of inbuilt safety settings on mobile networks and devices to filter out inappropriate content. Check age ratings on games, apps, films, and social networks to see if they are age-appropriate. For game ratings, check out the Pan-European Game Information classifications, or PEGI ratings, and look for age ratings in app stores. Have conversations with your child about how they use the internet and what they may find there.

Most social media platforms have a minimum age of 13 or above, but many children use them, so consider whether your child is mature enough to post responsibly and manage any risks they may encounter. Encourage them to develop their critical thinking, making it a habit to question what they see online and not to take everything at face value. Teach your child ways that they can protect themselves online, like enabling strict privacy settings, using block and ignore functions, and the importance of keeping personal information private.

Remind them that not everyone they meet online may be genuine and they should never meet anyone they have only met online in real life without you or an adult they already know and trust. Help your teen feel confident about saying no if they're asked to do anything that makes them feel worried or uncomfortable and to tell you about it. Connected technology is hugely positive for most children. You can help them develop a healthy relationship with screens and tech, teaching them how to have a good balance of online and offline activity and a balanced digital diet.

Because safety on the internet matters.

What do pre-teens do online?

Research shows that pre-teens like to watch videos, play video games and use messaging apps.

of 11-13s watch videos on platforms like YouTube and TikTok.

of 11-13s use messaging apps like WhatsApp and Snapchat.

of pre-teens play games online against others.

Get smart about smartphones

Does your child want a smartphone? Here are some things to consider and actions to take to make sure they are safe.


Online safety checklist: Pre-teens

Use these practical tips to help pre-teens have safer online experiences and develop their digital resilience.

Have open and honest discussions

Encourage your child to talk to you about how they use the internet and show you what they do. Discuss with them the kinds of things they might come across. A good time to talk is when they get a new device or mention a new website.


Talk about privacy

If your child has a social media profile, teach them to block or ignore people and how to set strict privacy settings. Request that you or someone you both trust becomes their ‘friend’ or ‘follower’ to check that conversations and posts are appropriate.

Check age ratings

The age ratings that come with games, apps, films and social networks are a good guide to whether they’re suitable for your child. For example, the age limit is 13 for several social media sites including TikTok and Instagram.


Manage their devices

Encourage them to use their tech devices in a communal area such as the living room or kitchen and set up a user account for your child. If you think they aren’t old enough to have a mobile phone or tablet, stay firm and explain the reasons why.

Create a family agreement

Agree and set boundaries with them or have a family agreement for their internet use, including when and where they can use portable devices and for how long, before they get used to doing their own thing.


Stay safe on the move

Be aware that if your child is accessing the internet using public WiFi they may not have safety features active. Some providers are part of family friendly WiFi schemes with filters to block inappropriate content. Look out for friendly WiFi symbols like RDI Friendly WiFi symbols when you’re out and about.


Put yourself in control

Activate parental controls on your home broadband along with all devices including mobile phones and games consoles. Safe search settings can also be activated on search engines and platforms or apps like YouTube, Roblox and TikTok.


Talk about social media early

Talk to children about the benefits and risks of social media before they join any sites or download any apps. Let them know that anything they upload, email or message could stay around forever online.


Play and browse together

Learn about your pre-teen's favourite video games, platforms and online interests by joining them. Remember, their online life is their real life -- so take an interest. Give them the opportunity to show you some of their favourite things.

What the research says

As children grow and experience more benefits online, they also face greater risk of harm.

of 11-13s say they feel like they spend too much time online.

of pre-teens say they are unsure about whether what they see online is true.

pre-teens say strangers contact them.

of 11-13-year-olds say they’ve come across hate speech online.

Guide for parents and carers

Download or print this guide to help keep your pre-teen safe online.

Featured recommended resources

What issues might affect pre-teens?

Here are some of our favourite resources to help you learn more about e-safety for 11-13 year-olds and pass on the message to them. We’ve also highlighted some appropriate apps as they start to go mobile.

Guides and resources for parents


BBC iWonder Guide

As part of our new partnership with the BBC, we’ve worked together to create an interactive guide to give you practical tips on how you can keep your children safe online. It covers 7 key areas such as “Taking control with tech” and “What kind of parent am I?”.


Digital Parenting

Vodafone’s Digital Parenting provides checklists and practical advice on keeping children safe online.


O2 and NSPCC online safety helpline

From setting up parental controls to reporting online bullying, you can call the free helpline on 0808 800 5002, or visit an O2 Guru in store.


Google safety tools for families

Set ground rules with Google Family Link and use a range of safety tools to help the whole family build good online safety habits.


O2  & NSPCC NetAware

O2 and NSPCC’s Net Aware is a guide for parents of 50 of the most popular social networks, apps, and games with children. You can download it as an app or visit the site to stay informed.


Guide to tech: Using Location tracking on kids devices

Here’s what you need to consider before deciding to share your child’s location on their device and how to best use apps that offer location tracking.


Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp tools to navigate social media safety

Get tools and tips to support your child’s digital wellbeing on Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp


O2  & NSPCC NetAware

O2 and NSPCC’s Net Aware is a guide for parents of 50 of the most popular social networks, apps, and games with children. You can download it as an app or visit the site to stay informed.


Young Minds parents helpline

Young Minds Parents Helpline is available to offer advice to parents and carers worried about a child or young person under 25. Call 0808-802-5544 to get support.


American Academy of Pediatricians 

Use the AAP’s ‏tool to create a family media plan to help you to think about media & create goals & rules that are in line with your family’s values.


Mumsnet Guide

Advice and top tips for keeping children under five safe online.


Guide to Monitoring apps

With the help of Pocket-lint’s Andy Robertson, we’ve given tips on how best to use them and reviewed the top apps available.


Internet Matters Wellbeing Apps guide

We’ve scoured the best of the net to uncover popular (FREE) wellbeing apps available to download.


Good App Guide

Use the Good App Guide to get independent reviews of children’s apps, parenting and child development advice. It is run by Fundamentally Children an organisation dedicated to helping children develop skills through play

Online safety activities to do with your child


BBC Own It

Own it covers everything from online privacy and avoiding malware, through to dealing with everyday dilemmas children face online, as well as having fun. Quick links to charities and organisations like Childline, whose phone lines and online chat can provide urgent support should children need it, will also be available.



Age-appropriate games, activities and information that can teach older children how to keep safe online.


BBC Bitesize

Part of the BBC’s ‘Bitesize’ resources and suitable for children aged 11-14. An interactive video that helps children to recognise and avoid potentially dangerous situations online.


Google Interland

This is an adventure-packed online game that makes learning about internet safety interactive and fun. In Interland, children can learn about avoiding badly-behaved hackers, phishers, and bullies by practicing the skills that they need to be confident online explorers.


Stop Speak Support code

Created by young people for young people, the code offers simple steps to take positive action to deal with cyberbullying.

Apps to help children get the most from the digital world



From Horrible Histories to The Dumping Ground: On A Mission app, CBBC apps are packed full of fun activities that will engage young children and help them learn through play.


Sky Kids App

The Sky Kids app offers a fun and safer way for pre-schoolers to nine-year-olds to enjoy a wide range of popular kids TV. Parents have been involved in the development of the Sky Kids app. The result is an app that kids will love, supported by safety features that parents need.


BBC iPlayer Kids

BBC iPlayer Kids app gives children easier access to their favourite programs, while parents can be confident they’re watching shows appropriate for their age and free from adverts. Sign into the BBC iPlayer app and create a children’s account to start using it.