Online Safety

Online safety for parents/carers

It is often challenging to keep up with your children's use of technology; what they are doing online, who they are chatting to, what games they are playing and what they are downloading and viewing.

    • The most effective way of controlling your child’s personal details online is to talk to them about PLC. (And of course we don’t mean public limited companies.

      Privacy – Talk to your child about their privacy settings and encourage them to limit all easily identifiable information, like school or home address, phone number, etc. Check out the security and privacy features of any social media channels and you may want to create an account yourself to understand the site, any potential dangers and of course understand the attraction your child has for the site.

      Location - Many apps ask for the location of the device or use GPS tracking to discover it anyway. You can disable location services in the app settings, however you will need to discuss with your child the importance of not identifying their location to the wide public. Children love to tag where they are and what they are doing and they don’t always understand the implications (robbers knowing you are on vacation, strangers knowing your child’s favourite hangouts, etc.)

      Contacts - If your child ‘friends’ someone online, then it is likely that the person will have access to your child's online profile. Encourage your child to only friend people that they know and to ‘unfriend’ or block users who post things online that they might find upsetting or who they become suspicious of. If you have created a social media account yourself, ask if you can be an online ‘friend’, although don’t be surprised if your teen says no.

    • Research shows that parents tend to ignore warnings on games that say they are unsuitable for children and that parents let children play games designed for adults, even though they know they are 18-rated. You should remember that ratings on games are designed to offer guidance over the age appropriateness of the game, the content and the gameplay.

      You can check out game reviews on Common Sense Media and Pan European Game Information. Be sure to download the UK SIC Technology Guide for Parents at

    • This is a tough question for parents everywhere. There has been research that indicated that for 10-15 year olds, gaming for less than 1 hour a day was beneficial to psychological adjustment, whereas gaming for more than 3 hours per day had the opposite effect. Err on the side of caution, less is more and balance screen time with family activities.

      Talk with your child about what they are doing on line, what sites they use, what games they play and create screen time balance together. It is better to try and make family rules by talking and engaging with your child rather than imposing rules which might not seem acceptable. Try to be a positive role model too and limit your own screen time. (Yes this can be a challenge.) If you need some tips, download this parent guide on screen time for young children (Short Version) (Full Version)

    • Online multiplayer gaming can be a fun way for your child to connect and play games with other young people. Examples of multiplayer games, range from Minecraft, where you can play with 2 or more players to World of Warcraft, a massively multiplayer online game.

      Regardless of what type of game your child is playing, they need to be cautious as online gaming allows opportunities for your child to become ‘friends’ with strangers. Your child should avoid posting photos and should know what to do if another play starts harassing them or they become uncomfortable in a game (block and/or report the other player). Encourage your child to use a game name and avatar when playing with unknown people and to think ‘privacy, privacy, privacy’ – even when setting up a profile.

    • The term ‘sexting’ (sex-texting) is used to describe the sending and receiving of sexually explicit images by text messaging, email or by posting them through social networking sites. Young people are sexting more and more as they send images and messages to their friends, potential sexual partners, or even strangers they meet online. Sexting has become commonplace and parents should know the key issues:

      • The taking of a sexually explicit picture of somebody under 18 is producing a child abuse image and risks being prosecuted, even if the picture is taken and shared with that young person’s permission.
      • The sending of a sexually explicit image of somebody under 18 is distributing a child abuse image and risks being prosecuted, even if the picture is taken and shared with that young person’s permission.
      • If the images are shared online they can become public and can be saved, copied and distributed by others. These images may never be removed from the internet and could be found online in the future, for example by a potential employer or partner.

      The NSPCC has a great site offering useful advice for parents - and you should also download this sexting toolkit

    • The Internet is an outstanding source of excellent educational resources, recreational and creative opportunities and advice for all. The internet offers an almost unlimited choice of age appropriate sites for children and young people and there is nothing wrong with children using such sites. Many people consider the development of appropriate skills around safe and competent internet use as essential for a child’s development.

      Parenting in the digital age is not an easy task, but these tips below should reduce some of the strain:

      • Ensure that your child understands that not all of the information on the internet is truthful or accurate
      • Understand that there is some risk in using internet, but that research has shown that for the vast majority of children, the online world is no more risky – and perhaps even less risky – than the offline world. (Sonia Livingstone)
      • Apply all the privacy and security settings that your internet service provider offers and in the case of younger children, consider parental controls.
      • Respect the age-appropriate restrictions that are on social media sites, such as Facebook and Instagram. Those restrictions were created for a reason: to protect your under-age children.
      • Act as a role model yourself and use internet and technology responsibly and in a safe manner (no texting while driving, no smartphones at the table
    • Your child has probably already asked: “Can I download this app, mum?” And while you certainly understood that it is the latest must-have app, you may still wonder whether the app is appropriate for your child?

      There are thousands of apps on the market and you can find apps for education, gaming, communication, creativity and more. The app stores allow you to search for and find apps within age appropriate categorisations. For example, the app store in Google play has a family category including apps for children 5 years old and under, children between 6-8, and children 9 and over.

      You should keep in mind that even free apps for children often include ‘in-app’ purchasing, but with a little fiddling, most will allow you to turn this feature off.

      For spot-on reviews (including the viewpoints of young people), you can check out Common Sense Mediareviews on apps, games and websites.

      NSPCC and O2 have created an award-winning website for parents called Net Aware site which also includes reviews of apps as well as social networking sites.

    • Rest assured, it’s not just your teen that is fascinated by YouTube. This amazing service owned by Google allows teens around the world to listen to music or watch videos without having to buy it. Teens can also share their own videos after creating a YouTube profile (or channel).

      So what should you be aware of as your teen is mesmerized by YouTube?

      • Understand the copyright and creative credits for work that your teen produces.
      • Understand privacy and control of user information (once content created by your child is in the public domain, control of that content is very easily lost.)
      • Chances are your teen will not become a millionaire vlogging (blog via videos) although they may watch celebrity Vloggers and follow their advice on better gaming, applying make-up or setting fashion trends, etc.
      • Community guidelines exist regarding what content can be uploaded, but it is VERY easy for teens and young children to come across inappropriate content including videos that contain violence, scenes of a sexual nature, racism, extremism, foul or abusive language and other anti-social themes.

      There is a YouTube exclusively for kids, appropriately called YouTube Kids at

      If you want more detailed information, check out this article for parents on YouTube at:

    • Online grooming occurs when a suspected paedophile forms a relationship with a potential victim based around a common interest. The perpetrator will pretend to be somebody they are not and will use tools such as chatrooms and forums to engage with children. Ultimately, they will try to isolate their victim in order to achieve control over them by using flattery, empathy, blackmail, shame, threats or intimidation on their victim.

      • Teach your child is aware that not everybody on the internet is who they say they are.
      • Remind your child not to over share their personal information.
      • Help your child set privacy settings on any social communication tools at an appropriately restrictive level that will protect your child.

      These abusers are adept at persuading children to behave in ways that they would not normally consider so it is vital that children are encouraged never to meet with any unknown online contacts in the offline, real world unless this has been discussed with an appropriate adult.

      If you believe your child or a child you know may be a victim of grooming, please contact the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre -

    • Children can be tagged in a picture or event without their knowledge. Other parents and carers may forget to seek permission before they post a picture of the soccer team or the ballet recital. You can ask for the photo to be removed and/or the tag to be removed. If that doesn’t work, you can contact the Safety Centre of the social media site and follow their procedure for removing photos.

      Remind your own child to be careful about any photos that they themselves post or share. And if you would like to monitor your child’s name online, you may want to set a Google alert in your child’s name. (Or yours too for that matter.)