What sort of inappropriate content might my child see?
What you think is inappropriate material for your child will probably differ from your child’s view or that of other parents. It will also depend on your child’s age and maturity level. Inappropriate content includes information or images that upset your child, material that’s directed at adults, inaccurate information or information that might lead or tempt your child into unlawful or dangerous behaviour. This could be:
- pornographic material
- content containing swearing
- sites that encourage vandalism, crime, terrorism, racism, eating disorders, even suicide
- pictures, videos or games which show images of violence or cruelty to other people or animals
- gambling sites
- unmoderated – where there’s no one supervising the conversation and barring unsuitable comments.
It can be difficult to monitor what your child is viewing as they can access this material through any internet enabled device, including mobile ones such as a phone or tablet. Sometimes your child may stumble upon unsuitable sites by accident, throughthey’ve downloaded to their mobile device or through links they’ve been sent by friends, chatting to others online, or even through inter-device communication systems such as Bluetooth or Apple’s AirDrop.
Talk to your child about avoiding inappropriate content
Tools likecan help to protect your children from accessing inappropriate content, but you can’t check everything they see on the internet. You need to help them avoid unsuitable content, and cope with it if they see it. The first step is to talk to them about it:
Start a conversation
As soon as your child starts to use the internet you should begin to talk about what they might find there. Help them understand that sometimes they may come across things that they’d prefer not to see, or that you would prefer they didn’t see. Try to have these conversations regularly.
Make sure they know about age limits
Many sites have a minimum age limit of 13 – this includes websites like YouTube and Facebook. Explain to your child that age limits are there to help protect them from unsuitable content.
Talk to other parents and the school
Ask other parents and your child’s school what sort of rules they’re following and what they recommend.
Agree ground rules
Find out the kind of things your child likes to do online and agree which websites and apps are the best for them to use. These should include the search engines they use to find information. There are child-friendly search engines that are especially suitable for children; you can find these listed on the Deal With It page.
Be calm and reassuring
Let your child know they can talk to you or a trusted adult if they come across anything that upsets them online.
Managing access to inappropriate content
By putting a few simple measures in place you can help your child avoid inappropriate content and focus on experiencing the best of the internet. Here are some things you can do:
Set up parental controls
Put parental controls on your home broadband. See the Parental Controls page for more information.
Set parental controls on your search engine
Make sure every device is protected
Parental controls should be installed on every device your child uses: mobile phone, tablet and games consoles (both home and handheld).
We’ve created a simple, interactive guide to protect your family from inappropriate content online. We’ll will show you step by step information on how to set parental controls across your home broadband and a range of mobile devices, games consoles and entertainment sites that your children might use.
Activate the safety measures offered by different sites; social networking sites like Facebook have privacy settings that will help prevent your child seeing unsuitable advertising.
If you’re worried about your children accessing inappropriate content though accidentally clicking on adverts in pop-ups, BBC Webwise has advice on how to stop these.
Find good sites and agree on them as a family
By talking to your child about their interests you can help them find suitable sites to visit and apps to use. Review these sites as they get older.
Manage their use and access
Your child may be less likely to let you know they’re distressed by something they’ve seen online if they think you’ll take away their internet access but it may be appropriate to do this in some instances. Be aware of this when talking to them, and let them know they can talk to you or a trusted adult whenever they need to.
If you see any illegal sexual images of children report them to the Internet Watch Foundation.
Content that incites hatred should be reported via True Vision.
Content which relates to terrorism should be reported via the Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit.
Report any content you’re concerned about, for example sexual or violent content that appears in adverts, films, television programmes or video games, using ParentPort.
If you want to report any other issues, take a look at the information on our Take Action page.
The following links offer advice for parents and children on avoiding unsuitable content and searching the internet safely:
Do you know where your children go online? by Olivia Gordon
Kids’ curiosity online: What does it mean to parents? by Catherine Knibbs
Sex and violence online and how to avoid it – Parent Info
- Ofcom Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes Report (Oct 2014) p.46, Figure 20
- Pace of Change report. December 2015. P.g 15
- Tech knowledge: How Children use devices at school and at home, September 2015. Pg.37