Deal with it

Seeing inappropriate content at a young age can leave children feeling confused and unable to process what they have seen or experienced. Get advice on how to support them and help them recover.

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Practical steps to deal with it

What to do if a child sees explicit adult content online
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By putting a few simple measures in place you can manage access to inappropriate content and help your child focus on experiencing the best of the internet. Here are some things you can do

Your home broadband is the root of your child’s internet access and you can access the parental controls to set acceptable limits on the content your child can view.

If your home broadband is used by your family, then you may want to set parental controls on just the search engines they use.

Make use of the parental controls available on your child’s device to manage what, and how, they share content online and interact with others.

Activate the safety measures offered by different sites; social media sites like Facebook have privacy settings that will help prevent your child seeing unsuitable advertising.

By talking to your child about their interests you can help them find suitable sites and apps to use. Review these sites as they get older.

Give your child the tools to know when and how to report any content that may be upsetting on the platforms they use. Organisations like CEOP and IWF can help remove and deal with reports of sexual images of children online.

If your child does stumble across something inappropriate online, there are a few things that you can do to deal with it:

  • Establish whether if they stumbled onto the content accidentally or were simply curious and went looking for it. If it an accident, reassure them that is not a bad thing and show understanding.
  • If they went looking for it, have an honest conversation about why they felt the need to, to understand and help them take a more critical view of their actions.
  • Stay calm and discuss what they have seen and how it has made them feel to assess what emotional support they may need.
  • If they can’t talk to you, there are organisations like childline where they can talk to trained counsellors about what they may be feeling.
  • Review settings and controls on the platforms they use to ensure that these are set to the right levels.

If you have not already, establish a family agreement that gives them clear boundaries of what they should do online and when. Childnet have a great family agreement template you can use to get started.

What to do if your child has seen porn online


How to report inappropriate content

If you or your child come across any content that is illegal, incites violence or hatred, here is what you can do:

  • Reporting Indecent images of children: If you or your child come across any illegal sexual images of children report them to the Internet Watch Foundation.
  • Reporting inappropriate content social: Use our set-up-safe guides to see how to report to the relevant providers e.g. Facebook, YouTube using the ‘flag’ or ‘report’ links near the content. [Insert links to guides]
  • Reporting hate speech online: Content that incites hatred should be reported via True Vision.
  • Reporting extremist material: 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 Ofcom.

If you want to report any other issues, take a look at the information on our Report Issue page.

FAQ: My child is actively searching for adult extreme content, what do I do?

If you are concerned that your child is looking at content that is considered extreme in nature at a young age the first step is to have an open and frank conversation about what they are watching.

  • Stay calm and try to find out what makes them want to access and watch this content.
  • It’s important to not threaten to take away devices as it may drive this behaviour underground and stifle future conversation about what they do online.
  • If they feel uncomfortable talking to you, give them contact details for organisations like Childline to talk about the issues and get some impartial advice.
  • If they are watching extreme content or actively taking part in forums which incite self-harm, it may be helpful to reach out to an organisation like Young Minds parent helpline who can offer advice on where to seek face-to-face support on this issue.
  • Nobody likes to think that their own child could be a cyberbully, but young people can sometimes be drawn into this behaviour without realising the impact of their actions. We have tips and advice on what to do if your child is a cyberbully.
Get help rescue-ring

If you’re worried and you need help dealing with a child that is upset about seeing inappropriate content, there are a number of helplines for parents and carers.

our resources

FAQ: How do I take action online?

Report or flag upsetting content –Most social media platforms give you options for reporting or flagging content that breaches their user guidelines and this is always an option. Be aware that the thresholds for offensive content, the process for reviewing reports and the time it takes to remove content varies according to the social network, game or app.

If someone has acted inappropriately towards your child, particularly in a sexual way, you should report it immediately to CEOP.

Where to get counselling services

As a parent, you should always take it seriously and if you have any worries about your child’s mental or physical health see your GP. If you need help talking to them about mental health, then the Mental Health Foundation and Mind have some advice.

Talk to your GP about available support. Many local counselling services offer a sliding scale of cost depending on your family income. It may even be free. This can be quicker than accessing support through your GP. For information of counselling services in your area visit the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy and make sure your child knows about Childline and other helplines.

Resources document

Read this article from Young Minds to learn how can counselling services can help my child.

Read article