Child online safety: Addressing top parental concerns

By Internet Matters Team on

Prevention is always better the cure however, if you’re child has been affected by an e- safety issue, it is important to know what steps you can take to limit the potential effects it can have on them.

To help, we’ve compiled a list of e-safety concerns that you may have about your child’s online safety and steps you can take to help them deal with it. We’ve also provided helpful links to organisations that can offer more help.

E-safety parental concerns

Click on the image to see steps you can take.

My child spends too long on their smartphone / tablet

Recent research from Action for children found that nearly a quarter of parents struggle to get their children to “unplug” and take part in activities away from television, phone and computer screens.

Steps you can take to manage a child’s screen time:

Talk to them about the time they spend online to better understand what they are doing and agree on an appropriate length of time that they can use their device.

Put in place a family agreement to set boundaries about how long they spend on their device and what they should be using it for. It can also be used as way for the whole family to think about the best way to use the internet.

If you’d like more control over the time they spend online when they are not being supervised, you can use apps to help you regulate this. They work by disabling your child’s device when they have hit their limit.

Ensure they have a better night’s sleep by removing the device from their bedroom at bed times and charging it in another room.

Be the role model – Whatever behaviour you would like your child to have, set the example.

Encourage them to take up alternative activities – It could be as simply picking up their favourite book or magazine to going outside to play a game or visit a friend.

Stay in control – If your child simply will not respect the agreement that you have in place, you can (in combination with having a conversation) use parental controls, passwords and mobile services to manage their screen time.

Get the whole family to unplug and play –  Action for Children has developed five top tips to help parents get the whole family to unplug and play.

Organisations that can help

Resources to learn more

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My child has been caught sexting

If your child has shared an explicit photo or video of themselves they may be very upset, especially if it’s been widely circulated. If you become aware of this, try to stay calm and reassure them that they have your support.

Here are steps you can take to help them:

Start with a conversation – Speaking opening about the issue, reassure your child and explain to your child the risks of sexting and what they should do in the future.

Explore the facts – Find out who the content was shared with initially, who it was passed on to, whether it was done maliciously or was a joke gone wrong.

Call the school – Your child’s school will be able to help you deal with the repercussions and support your child at school. If the image has been shared with other children in the school they should have a process for dealing with it and will be able to help stop the image being shared any further.

Report it – If you suspect the image has been shared with an adult, contact the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP), who are the national policing lead for online child sexual exploitation.

Contact the website or provider – Social networking sites should remove an image if asked. If the image has been shared via a mobile phone, contact the provider who should be able to provide you with a new number.

Contact ChildLine – If your child calls ChildLine and reports the image, ChildLine will work with an organisation called the Internet Watch Foundation to get all known copies of the image of your child removed from the internet.

Organisations that can help

Resources to learn more

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My child has shared their personal information on social media

If you feel that your child has over-shared on social, here are some steps you can to take:

Assess the risks it poses to your child
– Why type of information did they share? Could it be used to locate them? Are they embarrassed by the content and why?
– Who was it shared with? A friend, A stranger, or a group of friends? How many people might have seen it?

Remove the content wherever it has been posted – Whether it’s on a social media site or other websites, either remove it yourself from your child account or request it to be taken down by those who have re-posted it. If they refuse you can use the site “report” functionality to get image taken down.

Help them to share safely by teaching them not to share pictures and videos without your permission, limit the amount of personal information shared and only share personal information with their friends.

Monitor what social networks they are on and what they are sharing – If your child is active on social media; follow them as a friend to monitor what they are sharing. If you feel they have not yet reach the maturity they need to use the platform, advise them to stop until you feel confident that they will make smart choices.

Resources to find out more

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My child has a social media account but they are under 13

If your child has created a social media account without your permission and is under the minimum age specified to be on the platform, the first thing to do understand why, by having a conversation.

Steps you can take to tackle the issue

Discuss the concerns you have with your child and the potential risks they may face if they choose not to remove their account (be aware that it some cases it may not be possible to remove content or delete their account from the platform if they have set it up with an incorrect / fake email address)

If you are unable to delete the account yourself, several of the popular social networking platforms have forms you can fill in to flag if an account is underage to remove it.

Twitter
Instagram
Facebook
YouTube

Organisations that can help

Resources to learn more

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My child is using numerous social media platforms and I am not sure how to keep them safe

Our Pace of change research findings suggest that children regularly use an average of four social networks and apps, with 21% using apps that could be considered ‘risky’ for children.

Steps you can take to keep them safe on social media:

Find out what apps they are using and why – Ask them to show you what apps they use and talk about how they used them and what makes them engaging.

Check the minimum age guidance of the platform – If you are unsure whether they should be using social media platform, find out what age is recommend to use it and stick to it.

Explain the importance of sharing safely – It is important they know to only share their content with people they know and apply privacy settings to make sure they have totally control over who sees what they share.

Teach them to report anything that upsets them – If they come across anything that upsets them, it is important that they know to come to you and report it on the platform.

Encourage positive behaviour online – Have a conversation about what is and isn’t appropriate online. Much of the positive
behaviour that we value offline should be used online as well.

Follow and friend your child on social media – If your child is new to social media, it is a good idea to follow them to make sure you
have can see what their posting and mentor them on what is appropriate.

Create a strategy for monitoring their accounts – This may be a check once a week or less, stick to what works for you. As a child gets older it may be more important to check more often to make sure you are aware of what they’re sharing.

Resources to find out more

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My child has been groomed online

If you suspect your child has been groomed online, they may not tell anyone because they feel ashamed or guilty or simply not realise that they are being abused.

Here are some steps that you can take to help them:

Talk to your child – Let them know that they are in no way to blame for what has happened and that you are there to help protect them.

Report it to the authorities – If you think your child – or another child – could be in immediate danger tell your local police at once.

You can report any concerns about online grooming to the National Crime Agency’s CEOP Command.

Report any child abuse images you find hosted by websites to the Internet Watch Foundation.

Get help – If your child wants to talk to someone in confidence they can call Childline on 0800 1111 or Get Connected on 0808 808 4994 (text 80849).

Parents can call the NSPCC’s free 24/7 adult helpline on 0808 800 5000, email help@nspcc.org.uk or text 88858. You can also contact the Stop it Now! helpline (0808 1000 900) where you can seek advice anonymously.

Organisations that can help


Resources to learn more

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My child is a cyberbully

It can be difficult to accept that your child could be capable of engaging in cyberbullying. However, as a parent it is important to keep calm and speak to your child to understand what has happened.

Here are some steps you can take:

Ask them stop and have an open conversation about the situation.

Try and find out the reason why to understand how to stop it from happening again.

Explain the severity of the behaviour and the possible consequences (losing friends, getting school or even police involved).

Work with family, the school or trusted adults to send a clear message to your child of the impact this could have on the person or people they are targeting.

Encourage them to exhibit positive behaviour such as empathy, respect and compassion and discourage bullying behaviour by incentivising positive behaviour.

Be patient and give your child some time to take onboard the positive behaviour and show them that they have your support.

Organisation that can help:

Resources to learn more:

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My child is being cyberbullied

If your child is being cyberbullied it important to give them your full emotional support.

Step you can take to help:

Reassure them that the situation will be resolved.

Ask them not to reply to attempts by the cyberbully to contact them as cyberbullies are looking for the attention.

Keep a written record of what has happened and keep the messages (text, emails) that have been sent as evidence by taking screen shots or printing them out.

Use tools on social media networks and mobile services to block out the bullies.

Don’t deny your child access to technology, instead moderate their uses of the device.

Organisation that can help

Anti-Bullying Alliance
Anti-Bullying Pro
Facebook: Stop Bullying: Speak UP
Bullying UK helpline: 0808 800 2222

Resources to learn more

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My child has seen porn online

If your child has accidentally come across pornography or actively sought it out by searching for it, it will prompt questions about what they have seen. Here are some things you can do to, to help them make sense of what they have seen and keep them safe in the
future:

Steps you can take

Have an age appropriate conversation and explain that there are some things online that are for adults only and if they see something that upsets them online, they should always come and tell you.

It may be a good time to help your child think critically about the images they see online and offline.

Try and give them coping strategies to help them deal with any online content that they are uncomfortable with like closing the laptop lid or turning off the screen.

Reassure them that they can always come to you if they feel they have seen something online that has worried them.

Be prepared that they may have questions about sex and relationships.

Limit the chances of exposure to inappropriate content by setting up filters and parental controls on devices – i.e. filters on your home internet, and YouTube Safety Mode and Google Safe Search.

Make sure the devices are used in a shared room, like living room or kitchen to limit.

Discuss the problem with other parents to encourage a shared strategy.

Organisation that can help

Resources to learn more

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My child is self-harming

If you suspect that your child is self-harming, stay calm and try and talk to them openly about it.

Steps you can take

Find out why by talking to them and working together to address to the causes.

Don’t take it personally if your child cannot talk to you about it, instead consider speaking to your child’s GP or school to see what help is available to you and your child.

Give your child space and show them that you trust them to build up their confidence. Try and strike a balance between maintaining an awareness of their activities and their right to privacy.

Self-harm can be very addictive, and it is important that the decision to stop comes from the person who is self-harming.

Prevent access to self-harm and suicide websites by applying filters on your broadband and mobile operators. Please note that there are also many websites that can help your child deal with these issues so you can set your filters to allow access to these sites if you wish, or simply visit the websites in our recommended list.

Organisations that can help

Resources that can help

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My child has been radicalised online

If you are worried that child may be groomed online to be radicalised, here are some practical steps you can take to deal with the situation:

Have an open conversation with your child about what they are doing online and who they are speaking to.

Help them to be critical about the things they see online and report anything that they are worried about.

Encourage them to share their ideas and opinion so that they can be challenged on things that may not be true or considered extreme.

If they come across extremist content they should report it.

Organisations that can help

  • The Active Change Foundation (ACF) provide a confidential helpline to prevent British nationals from travelling to conflict zones. 020 8539 2770
  • The Anti-Terrorist Hotline is where to report any suspicious activity that may be related
    to terrorism. 0800 789 321
  • If your child wants to talk to someone in confidence they can call Childline on 0800 1111 or Get Connected on 0808 808 4994 (text 80849)

Resources that can help

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Other people are posting pictures of my child online without permission

Sharing photos online has become the norm for a number of parents however, if you are uncomfortable with your child’s picture being showcase on social media sites or elsewhere online, here are some steps you can take:

Approach the person(s) and advise them of your concerns and ask them to take it down or crop it to remove your child from the picture.

If your child’s photo is being taken at school or a club you can specify that it not be used by any parents on social media sites. Most schools have this outlined as part of their policy on pictures.

If your child picture is on a suspicious site, you can contact CEOP or IWF organisation who specialise in dealing with online sexual abuse to ensure your child’s picture is removed.

Organisations that can help:

IWF – Internet Watch Foundation

CEOP

Facebook help centre

Resources to learn more:

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