It can be difficult to know how to start talking to your child about what they’re doing online or who they might be speaking to. But talking regularly, like you would about their day at school, will help your child feel relaxed and mean that when they do have any worries, they’re more likely to come and speak to you. It can help to:
Children and young people’s lives have changed dramatically because of the coronavirus. With social distancing measures and most schools closing, children will be spending more time at home and online.
And while the internet is a great way for children and young people to stay in touch with their friends and keep busy during lockdown, it can also bring risks. Now more than ever it’s important to talk to your child about staying safe online and about the apps and sites they’re using. We’ve got advice to help.
While many parents and carers may be worried about their children spending more time online during lockdown, it’s important to understand what they’re doing online rather than setting limits on their total screen time.
For example, a child may spend hours searching the internet, while another child may spend less time each day talking to people they don’t know on a livestreaming or video app.
Asking them about the sites, apps and games they use regularly can be a great way to start a conversation and help you identify any risks in what your child’s doing online or who they may be talking to. We’ve got some great tips below to help get you started.
You can also find online safety tips and information about social networks, apps and games for parents over on Net Aware.
Many children will find it hard not being able to see their friends or family in person, and video apps can be a great way for them to stay in touch during lockdown when used safely, but there are also risks for young people.
It’s really important to help your child understand how to livestream and use video apps safely and make sure they’re speaking to people they know already. Net Aware has advice on livestreaming, including how to keep children safe on popular online apps such as Zoom, HouseParty and WhatsApp.
Young people may also be curious or explore risky behaviours online. Take a look at our advice for parents on sexting and sending nudes to help support your child.
Children are also likely to be spending more time on social media during coronavirus lockdown. While social media can be a good way for children and teenagers to stay in touch with friends they’re unable to see in person, it can also be unsafe. Children using social media may also be at greater risk of online abuse or online bullying during coronavirus lockdown.
A recent NSPCC survey shows that children turning to social media because they’re feeling lonely or have poor mental health are at higher risk of being groomed online.
Talking to your child about what they’re doing or sharing online can help you to understand any risks and keep them safe. Net Aware also has advice on popular social media sites and apps, including TikTok, Snapchat and Facebook
These controls are designed to help parents and carers manage their child's online activities. There are various types, some of which are free but others which can be bought. However, nothing is totally fool proof so they shouldn't replace the need for you to support and advise your child using the internet.
For detailed guidance on the different types of control, you can use this online tool from Internet Matters. This gives you the chance to set up a personalised list of the controls used in your home on all your different devices. There is also advice on how to use all the various controls, with videos and step-by-step instructions.
Controls can either be for a device like a games console, or for a network such as your home broadband.
The way to access device controls can vary according to the manufacturer. They can offer varying types of protection, from filtering out adult content from search results to preventing your child from buying things when playing games. You can usually find instructions on how to set these controls up on the manufacturer's website or use the Internet Matters app for help.
These settings will apply whether the device is being used in your home outside – but it's easy for them to be switched off, so talk to your child about trust and responsibility, making sure they understand the importance of why you have put the settings in place.
Most games consoles come with settings, which can be put in place for either the device itself or the games platform. It's easy to forget that games consoles allow players to connect to the internet and talk to people all over the world so setting controls on devices and the platform itself (such as XBox) is important.
Broadband and network filters generally come free with your service. These can be used to prevent material coming into your home. For example, you could restrict anything with a horror or sexual content being accessible via your home broadband. Instructions for accessing these filters can be found on the service provider's websites – look at the bottom of the page to find the "help" or "security" page.
Search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing allow users to filter out certain types of search results. This means you can reduce the risk of your child seeing adult content like pornography, or set limits on the time they spend online. Look for the cogwheel “settings” symbol where you will find the options for each provider. You can also encourage your child to use safer search facilities, such as SafeSearch Kids from Google.
As with search engines, social media and sites like YouTube have privacy and security settings. These can prevent your child from being contacted by strangers or from seeing inappropriate material. It is important to remember that content filters can't prevent other people from sending offensive or inappropriate messages or comments to your child's account, so controlling who can contact your child is a key step.
New Safeguarding website for parents - Parent Info
In schools we have lots of opportunities to learn about safeguarding and, particularly the online aspect. Parents on the other hand need access to support too. It is not always easy to encourage parents to meetings about esafety, but it is crucial they understand the risks.
The government has recently launched a brand new website to support parents. The website has being developed with ParentZone and CEOP, the police command responsible for child exploitation and online protection.
Parent Info is a collection of articles, tips, expert advice and resources designed to help parents keep up with what their children are doing on-line. For example, the site currently includes information about staying safe on minecraft, mental health, and building online resilience.
Vodafone produce an excellent magazine for parents and carers regarding online safety. It can be read online or read as a PDF by following the link below.
NSPCC Share Aware online safetyOnline Safety information for Parents
Top Tips for Building Your Childs Online ResilienceA useful web page for parents on helping to keep their child safe online.
Staying Safe on MinecraftInformation for parents on how to make sure their children access Minecraft in a safe way.