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Internet safety

Keeping up with and supervising children’s online activity can be challenging, especially when they have their own computers, smartphones, tablets and games consoles, or they are in other people’s homes. Understand the risks yourself and plan ahead before allowing children access to the internet.

The risks

  • Inappropriate contact from people who may wish to abuse, exploit or bully them
  • Inappropriate conduct because of their own and others’ online behaviour, such as the personal information they make public. They may also become either targets or perpetrators of cyberbullying.
  • Inappropriate content being accessed whether sexually explicit, racist, violent, extremist or other harmful material
  • Commercialism, directing aggressive advertising and marketing material at children 
  • Children gaining access to your own personal information stored on your computer
  • Children enabling viruses and spyware by careless or misinformed use of your computer

Keeping children safe online

There are several ways to safeguard children online. Undoubtedly the most effective is to educate them from an early age about the risks they may encounter when online, what these risks are, how to spot them and what action to take. There are a number of online age-appropriate educational resources available to parents, guardians, teachers and children themselves, covering every aspect of online safety for children.

You should also take the following measures. Remember that these factors will change as children grow up and should be reconsidered regularly.

  • Set ground rules about use of the internet, email and texts. Children should learn to take responsibility for their own actions and develop their own judgement.
  • Make children aware that online contacts may not be who they say they are
  • Children must keep personal details private
  • Ensure that they use a family email address when filling in online forms
  • They must never meet unsupervised with anyone they have contacted via the internet
  • Get children to report concerns about conversations, messages and behaviours to you or another known and trusted adult. Encourage them to share their internet experience with you and make it a shared family experience.
  • Get children to report bullying online, by text or phone immediately to you
  • Use the parental control settings on your browser, search engine and internet security package
  • Consider buying specialist parental control software
  • Block pop-ups and spam emails
  • Consider enabling online access from only a family computer located in a shared room
  • Always sit with younger children when they are online
  • Consider choosing a child-friendly home page in your browser settings
  • Learn the language of chatrooms and log on yourself so you know how it works
  • Consider setting up a family email account which can be used specifically to register for websites or competitions 
  • Tell your children not to illegally copy copyrighted content such as music, films or software
  • Ensure that your children do not have access to your logon account so that they cannot access, alter or delete your files
  • Take care to limit children's access to credit card and bank information. Similarly, ensure they cannot gain access to an online shop or other website where your details are stored.
  • Set limits on when they can use the computer, and for how long

Remember that a lot of the advice above also applies to your children’s use of mobile phones, tablets and games consoles.

Further support and useful links

If you suspect a paedophile may be grooming or trying to befriend your child, or your child is being stalked or harassed, contact the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) or your local Police. Visit the Think U Know website for young people and their parents, guardians and teachers  and run by CEOP.

If your child is being bullied or harassed online by fellow pupils, talk to the school as soon as possible as they will have procedures to prevent it.  

  • Safer Internet Centre  provides useful information, e-safety tips, advice and resources to help keep children and young people safe online.
  • Parent magazines are produced by Vodafone and cover a wide range of technology and advice.
  • Know It All for Parents is produced by a leading international charity and is available in a variety of languages.
  • Lets Keep Kids Safe Online is published by O2 and the NSPCC and provides guidance for parents about keeping children and young people safe on mobile devices and the internet.