downloading & viruses

Children delight in the freedom the internet gives them to download any song, film or TV programme they want. Most of the content children download is under copyright, meaning it belongs to the person, group or company that created it and payment is usually required. Downloading also exposes you to viruses and spyware.


of children aged 12-15 download music ¹


of parents worry about viruses and harmful sites ²


of parents don’t talk to their children about the risk of downloading viruses ³

The risks of illegal downloading

The ability to download music and films on demand and share information is a great benefit of the internet, but keep the following information in mind:

Check what your children are downloading as the film and music industries monitor the internet for people downloading illegally and you’ll be held responsible for any illegal downloads your children make

By downloading material from illegal sites, children risk downloading viruses or spyware at the same time. They can also be downloaded from emails, pop-ups or sharing files as well as USB drives and connected devices

Bloatware, trojans, malware and worms can also be downloaded. These can do anything from taking control of your computer to slowing your device down

Phishing and pharming are ways of getting hold of private information, either by sending emails pretending to be a genuine organisation such as a bank or building society or sending you to copies of genuine websites

File-sharing websites usually need special software. If your children are using one to download illegal material you may find a related icon on the desktop.

How can I ensure my child accesses content safely?

Talk to your children about how to download safely and legally, and help them understand why it’s important to keep the computer free from viruses:

Make it clear that it’s illegal to download most films, songs and games without paying for them

Research any download site your child is using and check it’s legal and trustworthy

Point your children to secure sites where they can buy music and films, such as iTunes or Amazon. You can limit the amount they spend by getting them gift cards for a particular sum

Look into services such as Spotify (for music) or Netflix (for films) which allows unlimited streaming

Check your child’s computer and device internet histories regularly for signs of illegal activity. A total lack of internet history may also be a sign of illegal activity

If an attachment seems suspicious, check with the person who sent it and scan it with appropriate antivirus software before opening it. Some software provides a list of reputable sources for downloading as well as flagging those known for harmful content

Check your bank accounts and all bills you receive for any signs of identity theft.

Internet security tips for parents

Following the links below can help you make sure your children download films and music legally and keep you up to date with internet security:


This site offers a full list of legal music services.

Find out where to legally download or stream any film in any format.

UK Safer Internet Centre

This parents’ guide to technology tells you everything you need to know about smartphones, gaming devices and other internet-enabled devices.

Childnet International

Dedicated to making the internet safe for children, Childnet have produced a leaflet with everything you need to know about music, film and TV on the web.


A great site to make sure you have all the basics covered to prevent hacking and to shop online in safety.

A Platform for Good

The Family Online Safety Institute’s ‘A Platform for Good’ has produced a series of videos to ‘Teach parents tech’.

  1. Ofcom Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes Report (Oct 2014) p.74, Figure 41
  2. Cybersafe Opinion Leader Report (Sept 2013)
  3. Ofcom Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes Report (Oct 2014) p.182, Figure 137