Protect your child

Get tips on how to use tech tools to filter and block inappropriate content on children’s device and what conversations to have to keep them safe online.

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Tips and tools to protect children from adult content

Tools like parental controls can 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.

Get support on how to protect children from explicit content online
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Parental Control tools can help protect your child from accessing inappropriate content but can’t block everything.

In addition to controls, having regular conversations about what they may see will help children build good coping strategies to deal with whatever the internet throws at them.

Many sites have a minimum age limit of 13 – including YouTube and Facebook. Explain to your child that age limits are there to help protect them from seeing things they may not be ready for.

Talk to other parents and your child’s school to see what sort of rules they’re following and what they would recommend.

Find out the kind of things your child likes to do online and agree which websites and apps are best for them and set some rules. Talk about how they search the internet; there are child-friendly search engines that are especially suitable for children.

Let your child know that they can talk to you or a trusted adult if they come across anything that upsets them online.

Starting a conversation about what children see online

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.

Explain age limits and age-inappropriate sites

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. You can switch on Google SafeSearch and set YouTube safe mode to make sure they see age-appropriate results.

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.

Encourage critical thinking

Help them think about why they like doing certain activities online to start to build their critical thinking.

Talk about what is fake and what is real

Show them that not everything they see online is true and to check other sources if something appears ‘too good to be true’-CBBC has videos and articles you can share with your child.

Use storybooks to start conversations

Start talking about online safety as soon as they get online – using stories to introduce the topic can make it easier to spark a conversation.

Talk about positive ways to use tech

Show that you understand the important role of technology and the Internet play in their lives.

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 find it hard to talk to you, so let them know they can always contact a confidential helpline 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 be questioning 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.

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More info

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

See Resource
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Check out Common Sense Media guide to YouTube channels to make an informed choice on what is suitable for your child to watch.

See YouTube Guide

Use our parental controls guides to set controls on children’s devices

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Use this family agreement from Childnet to help you agree on digital boundaries as a family.

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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

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 quick video how-to guides to set the right settings on the most popular platforms and other things you can do:

Facebook Privacy Checker

How to use Facebook privacy Check-up

YouTube Restricted Mode

How to set YouTube Restricted Mode

Google SafeSearch

How to turn on Google SafeSearch

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 parental controls

Put parental controls on your home broadband. Visit our parental controls and privacy guides for more information.

Turn on safe search on search engines

Encourage your child to use child-friendly search engines, such as SwiggleSafe search settings can be activated on Google and Bing. For other search engines go to safety settings. Don’t forget to opt for the safety mode on YouTube, iTunes and Google Play.

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).

Set filters

Activate the safety measures offered by different sites; social networking sites like Facebook have privacy settings that will help your child control who has access to their content and what they see.

Block Pop-ups

If you’re worried about your children accessing inappropriate content through pop-ups and advertising, visit wikiHow has advice on how to stop these.

Explore sites and apps together

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. Visit Common Sense Mediato see reviews of age-appropriate apps, websites, and other media.

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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 up to get it set up safe