Protect your child

Cyberbullying is a growing concern, but there are practical tips and tools you can use to teach your child how to make smarter and safer choices as they navigate their online world.

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Get Involved

The best way to protect your child from cyberbullying is to take an active interest right from the start. They need your love and protection online as much as they do in the real world. What your child is exposed to will depend on how they’re using the internet. For example, social network users are more likely to experience cyberbullying, see sexual or violent images, or have contact with strangers.

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Practical tips to talk about cyberbullying with children and protect them online

Use our age-specific interactive guides to help talk to your child about cyberbullying.

Have meaningful online safety conversations

The earlier you can talk to your child about making positive choices online, the better. Here are some conversation starters:

Who do they want to be online?

The choices we make online say something about who we are.  Talk to your child about how the things they do online paint a picture of themselves, so they shouldn’t post things without thinking about it.

How much should they share about themselves?

Talk to your child about the risks of sharing, identifying where they live or go to school, and what people online might do with that information. Talk about what the risks might be of sharing personal thoughts and feelings.

How much time should they spend online?

Talk about the possible impact of spending too much time online and agree sensible ‘bedtimes’ and breaks during the day. Create opportunities as a family to get ‘offline’ and have fun together. Establishing a family agreement can be a constructive way to set boundaries.

Know what your child does online

Talk to your child about what they do online and what they want to do online. Ask them about the kind of sites they go on and who they talk to; be clear about what you don’t want them to do online.

More conversation starters

What can they do if they see something horrible or something bad happens?

No matter how many precautions you take, there will be times where your child feels hurt, scared or confused by something they’ve seen or experienced. Calmly talk through what they’ve seen, how to understand it, and what you can do together to make things better.

What if they make a mistake or do something they later regret?

The important thing is that your child talks to someone if they’ve messed up. Try not to get angry or overreact. Work out together how to remove content and make amends for any harm caused. They might find it hard to talk to you, so let them know they can always contact a confidential service via phone, email or online chat if they need advice.

How can they know what and who to trust online?

There is a lot online that is made up or exaggerated, and there can be a lot of pressure to show what a great time you’re having. There is always the possibility that someone is not who they say they are. Teach your child to always question what they see and to talk to you if something doesn’t seem quite right. It’s never ever a good idea to meet up with someone you have met online without letting your parents know about it.

How can they make the online world better for other people?

We all leave our own digital footprint and have a choice whether that’s positive or negative. Encourage your child to think about the language they use, the things they say and share, and how that might impact on other people. Our guide on internet manners can help.

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More info

Read the NSPCC’s guide to encourage your child to be ‘Share Aware’.

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Learn more about how to stop a cyberbully with this video from Common Sense Media.

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Use this animated music video from Common Sense Media to talk with your child about the hazards of oversharing online

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Manage children’s social activity

It’s important to keep the conversation going and take an interest in what your child is doing online. Here’s your essential toolkit.

Online toolkit to manage their social activity

Set controls and privacy settings

As a parent, you have some decisions to make about how you want your child to engage online and on social media, and what measures you want to put in place to help protect them:

Set up their device

Whatever device you choose, there are free controls you can use to stop your child from purchasing and using certain apps, seeing certain content, or limiting what they can share with others, like their location, for example. Our set up safe how to guides cover the most popular range of devices and apps and platforms children use. From YouTube Kids to streaming services like Netflix, you’ll find quick and easy steps to set up the right controls to create a safe place for your child to explore.

Getting the low-down on sites, games and apps

You will probably use social networks yourself, but you might want to know about new ones that your child is using or wants to use. Use them yourself and set up your own account so you can experience what your child might see. There are also many child-friendly social networks they could use while they get ready for the likes of Snapchat and Instagram.

Privacy settings

Spend time together looking at the privacy settings. It’s always best to assume that default settings are public and should be changed accordingly. We’ve got some advice on using privacy settings on the most popular social apps.

A good profile

Use their nickname and a profile picture of their pet or favourite band, rather than themselves, and encourage them to only be friends with people they know in real life. Avoid sharing personal information like school, age and place they live.

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With Net Aware from the NSPCC and O2 you can find out more about the sites, games and apps your child uses including minimum age limits

Visit the NSPCC site

Use our five top tips to give your child’s smartphone or tablet a health check to get it set up safe

What does a good social media profile look like?

Social media profile tips for children

Blocking software

There is a range of new apps and software that block, filter and monitor online behaviour. You’ll need to decide as a family whether this is the right approach for you, taking into consideration your child’s age and maturity, and their need for privacy.

Negotiating the gaming world

In some games like Minecraft or Roblox, people deliberately try to intimidate other players. In multi-player games where gamers talk to one another, you might find abusive language or harassment, and there have also been instances of grooming. It’s therefore vital that your child knows how to report abuse and talks to you if something is causing them concern.

Helping vulnerable children

All children can enjoy the benefits of getting online with the right support.  As a parent of a disabled child or child with special educational needs you might have additional concerns about potential risks but not using the internet can mean your child is isolated from other children and have an impact on them not only socially but in school and the workplace.  The Anti-Bullying Alliance and Kidzaware have a range of resources to support disabled young people with getting online and with issues such as cyberbullying. Stonewall and Ditch the Label can also offer support to young members of the LGBT community to cope with bullying.

The online world can be a huge source of information and support for young people that feel different or vulnerable for lots of reasons. At some point your child may seek advice from the online world – whether through a search engine, through social networks or through a chat room and as a parent you can help your child find sites with good advice and information.

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Childline’s team of counsellors support children with any concerns or anxiety about how they feel

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