Downloading & viruses guide

Children delight in the freedom the internet gives them to download any song, film or TV programme they want. Most of the content children download is under copyright, meaning it belongs to the person, group or company that created it and payment is usually required. Downloading also exposes you to viruses and spyware.

What’s on the page

What are the risks of illegal downloading?

Watch Into Film and Industry Trust educational video to help children understand dangers of malware

The ability to download music and films on demand and share information is a great benefit of the internet, but keep the following information in mind:

  • Check what your children are downloading as the film and music industries monitor the internet for people downloading illegally and you’ll be held responsible for any illegal downloads your children make
  • By downloading material from illegal sites, children risk downloading viruses or spyware at the same time. They can also be downloaded from emails, pop-ups or sharing files as well as USB drives and connected devices
  • Bloatware, trojans, malware and worms can also be downloaded. These can do anything from taking control of your computer to slowing your device down
  • Phishing and pharming are ways of getting hold of private information, either by sending emails pretending to be a genuine organisation such as a bank or building society or sending you to copies of genuine websites
  • File-sharing websites usually need special software. If your children are using one to download illegal material you may find a related icon on the desktop.
Report document

Together with Mumsnet and Sky we asked parents about their experiences of the risks they see with digital piracy. Read our ‘Internet safety & dangers of digital piracy report’ to see what they said and get advice.

Read report

How can I ensure my child accesses content safely?

Talk to your children about how to download safely and legally, and help them understand why it’s important to keep the computer free from viruses:

Reinforce what the law says

Make it clear that it’s illegal to download most films, songs and games without paying for them

Check sites your child is using to download content

Research any download site your child is using and check it’s legal and trustworthy

Check internet history on devices for signs of illegal downloads

Check your child’s computer and device internet histories regularly for signs of illegal activity. A total lack of internet history may also be a sign of illegal activity

Keep an eye on bills for signs of ID theft

Check your bank accounts and all bills you receive for any signs of identity theft.

Encourage children to download from reputable sites

Point your children to secure sites where they can buy music and films, such as iTunes or Amazon. You can limit the amount they spend by getting them gift cards for a particular sum

Give them access to legal streaming platforms

Look into services such as Spotify (for music) or Netflix (for films) which allows unlimited streaming

Use virus protection software to protect devices

If an attachment seems suspicious, check with the person who sent it and scan it with appropriate antivirus software before opening it. Some software provides a list of reputable sources for downloading as well as flagging those known for harmful content

Teach them to spot fake or illegal streaming sites

If something mentions ‘free’ or terms like ‘Unlimited Movie Downloads’ , ‘ 100% legal’ these links will usually take you to pirated content.

Internet security tips for parents

Here are 5 top tips to help keep protect your devices from malware:

1. Use a password

Ensure your wireless connection is secured with an encrypted password.

2. Set your parental controls

Use parental controls to reduce the likelihood of children accidentally viewing inappropriate content.

3. Have active antivirus software

Keep your antivirus software up to date. You can set the software to automatically scan your computer, but make sure you monitor this regularly.

4. Keep your operating system and apps updated

Have the latest version of your operating system and apps installed on your devices.

5. Look for advice

Check in with your internet provider to get their latest advice on how to keep one step ahead of the cybercriminals.


Report criminal activity related to pirated digital content sush as films, TV and sports to CrimeStoppers – 0800 555 111

Report here

Recommended resources

Following the links below can help you make sure your children download films and music legally and keep you up to date with internet security: