Our children are spending more time online than ever before, so it is increasingly important that we work together to teach our children how to safely use the internet.

It is crucial that children and young people know how to behave appropriately online to help them recognise when things do not feel right and take action early. As a family you can start by talking openly about how to use the internet safely, and how to seek help if something goes wrong.

What risks might my children experience online?

  • Child sexual abuse
  • Child criminal exploitation
  • Exposure to radicalising content
  • Youth-produced sexual imagery (sexting)
  • Cyberbullying
  • Exposure to age-inappropriate content, such as pornography
  • Exposure to harmful content, such as suicide content

National Online Safety

National Online Safety (NOS) has a wealth of resources online which are now available to access for free on your smartphone through their new app for iPhone and Android.

It includes age-specific videos presented by Mylene Klass and weekly guides on the latest online games, apps, and websites.

You can also access this information on the NOS website.

These things may seem alarming but there are steps we can all take to reduce the risks to children and young people. Industry bodies like the UK Safer Internet Centre and Childnet International have a wealth of useful resources designed specifically for parents and carers. On their sites, you will find toolkits, videos, and practical guides on internet safety.

Self-generated sexual imagery now accounts for almost a third of all child sexual abuse material removed from the internet. These include images of girls aged 11 to 13, whose abuse has been recorded via a webcam. To tackle the rise in self-generated sexual images, the Internet Watch Foundation has launched a new campaign packed full of useful resources for parents.

Advice if something goes wrong

If you are concerned by something that you or your children have seen online, you can report it at reportharmfulcontent.com, powered by the UK Safer Internet Centre (UKSIC). It covers eight areas of harmful content including self-harm or suicide, violent content, and pornographic content.

Young children who have been affected by something they have seen or experienced online can access help through Childline, and for older children The Mix offers free and practical advice.

Screen time and mental wellbeing

While it is comforting to know that we can stay connected using the internet, it does mean parents and carers have had to relax their rules on ‘screen time’. UKSIC has published a free template to help parents set boundaries on internet usage that the whole family signs-up to.

UKSIC family agreement template

BBC Bitesize has these great tips on how to manage screen time without clashing.

  1. Talk to your child about using the internet safely.
  2. Take an interest in the websites, apps, and games they enjoy.
  3. Lead by example – use the internet positively and try to ditch the screen when you can.
  4. Set age-appropriate boundaries but be realistic!
  5. Spend time doing a positive activity together offline.

Read the full BBC Bitesize article.

Further resources and support

If you want to read more about online safety and the help available to parents and carers, the Department for Education recommends these websites: