The internet and digital technology has huge educational and social benefits for children and young people. They are used in schools and colleges, as well as being an important tool for homework, and many children go online for entertainment, to play games or to socialise with friends. However, there are also potential risks to using the internet that you and your child should be aware of.
- Coming across disturbing or inappropriate content.
- Online bullying.
- Sharing personal information or images.
- Being groomed or exploited by other people online..
Keeping children and young people safe online
- Talk to your child about staying safe online and the possible risks of using the internet.
- Go online with your child when they start to use the internet.
- If your child is talking to someone online, make sure you know who they are.
- Set rules and boundaries about how your child uses the internet.
- Set parental controls on your devices and your home internet (see below).
- Check that content your child is viewing is age appropriate.
- Check that both you and your child are aware of how to use reporting tools on the sites they use.
The following sites provide information and support to help children get the most out of the internet whilst staying safe:
Safety Settings and Parental Controls
As a parent or carer, there are steps you can take to ensure that your children remain as safe as possible when using the internet. Most smartphones, broadband providers, phone networks, search engines and social media applications have settings where you can limit or block access to the internet. For a good explanation of how these work, and details of controls for individual networks and providers, visit the Internet Matters Parental Controls page.
How to report incidents and concerns of children coming to harm online
Parents who believe their child is being groomed or harmed by an adult online should contact the police immediately. In an emergency, for example where you believe a child is travelling to meet someone they have met online, you should call 999.
Children can also report to CEOP (the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre). This is often a good first option for young people if they are anxious about talking face to face with a parent or teacher.
Online bullying and abuse can also be reported to the police by calling 101 or visiting Surrey Police's online reporting platform.
In an emergency always call 999.
The online world can be an exciting place and offer many opportunities. If your child has special needs or disabilities they may need extra support to enjoy the internet safely. There are some great tools to aid communication and valuable educational resources to support learning, but there are also risks.
The NSPCC suggest that parents might want to:
- Set ground rules about when and for how long your child can be online. If the internet is their main form of communication, you may allow them to stay connected longer than you would other children. As a parent you should judge what's best for your child and adapt the rules accordingly.
- Encourage your child to question what they read online. This is even more important for children who know that they've been diagnosed with a medical condition. At some point, they will probably want to go online to find out more about it, and could discover information that is either upsetting, wrong, or both.
- Remind your child not to share anything too personal. Children with learning difficulties can sometimes be more trusting of strangers than other children are. Encourage them to use a nickname online and to come to you if anyone asks for information, like their phone number or where they go to school
CEOP also have some useful resources to support children with SEND including videos featuring BSL (British Sign Language) and subtitles.
There are many benefits to gaming:
- Users can experience a variety of creative worlds and stories.
- You can play together with your child and take an interest in what they are playing.
- It can improve reflexes and strategic thinking.
- Motion gaming can get you moving.
- Some games have an educational element.
However, there are also risks. Many video game consoles, (as well as mobile devices), have internet connectivity enabling players to play games online with others. Ask About Games have a selection of Parent Guides on popular games so you can gain a quick understanding of the game.
When playing online games, you and your child need to be careful about what is shared online and know how to keep safe. You should be aware of the PEGI ratings which provide a reliable indication of the suitability of game content for different ages. This will help to prevent children viewing inappropriate or upsetting content. Internet Matters offer advice on how to keep your child safe whilst playing online games as well as providing a guide to parental controls and privacy settings. Childline and the NSPCC also have advice for being aware of and dealing with online bullying, online grooming and when gaming is becoming an addiction.