Safety online

The internet can be a great way for children to learn and share ideas with others through blogs, gaming and instant messaging.

With the right sites, support and tools they can develop their education and social skills safely. Below are some tips that, if followed, can give you the confidence that your child gets the most from the internet and their mobile phone whilst avoiding any adult content or other potential harm.

Share aware

In today’s fast moving digital world it can be difficult for parents to keep up to date on the latest sites, apps and games.

The NSPCC therefore launched its SHARE AWARE campaign to encourage parents to speak to their children about online safety and gives them the knowledge and confidence to do this effectively.

Guide to apps and sites

The NSPPC's interactive parents’ guide, Net Aware explains what other parents and young people think about 60 of the most popular social apps and games; including details on privacy and safety settings, and what is the appropriate age to be using them.

5-12 year olds

5-12 year olds tend to be eager to read and learn and want to talk about new ideas. They are also keen to make new friends and also tend to be quite trusting. Surfing, talking in chat rooms and forums are favourite online pastimes at this age.

Some safety tips:

  • Keep your computer in the living room or somewhere you can keep an eye on your child's activity.
  • Help protect your children from offensive pop-up windows by using the pop-up blocker that's built in to Internet Explorer. Google bar (downloadable from http://toolbar.google.com/) also has an excellent pop up blocker.
  • You can add buttons at the top of your browser which link to websites that you would rather your child was looking at. You can do this by dragging the icon next to the web address link onto where it says 'Links' in your browser bar.
  • Use kid-friendly search engines (such as MSN Kids Search) or search engines with parental controls.
  • Help to set up any email accounts with your child and use e-mail filters to block messages that contain specific words or phrases. If you are using web mail normally filters are already in place but it should explain in your account or tool options how to alter these.
  • Try to encourage your child to let you sit with them when they are asked to give out personal information on profiles, forums or any other accounts. Don't let them use their real names, photos or addresses in anything that may be accessible to the public, including nicknames. Tell them to never give out this information in chat rooms or on email.
  • Teach your kids not to download software, music, photos, and other files without asking you first.
  • Allow your kids to use only monitored chat rooms and message boards on reputable kids' sites.
  • It is advised to talk to your children about healthy sexuality, because kids can easily come across pornography and other adult content online.
  • Most importantly show your child that you have an interest in their games and friends on the Internet, then they'll be more likely to tell you about anything or anyone they come across which may be harmful to them.
  • Toward their teens it is a good idea to talk to your kids about responsible online behaviour. Some children can be influenced to use the Internet to spread gossip, bully, or make threats against others. We have written a section on how to spot and deal with 'cyber bullying'.

13-17 year olds

It's common for teens to seek the approval of their friends, including people they meet online through gaming and chat rooms, and be more rebellious toward their parent's wishes. They may be at a point in life where they are trying to form some kind of identity so will want a little more independence from their parents.

It is also at this age that kids may start exploring their sexuality so may be more tempted to look at websites which contain pornography or be more experimental with flirtation in chat rooms. Teens tend to be more open to new ideas but lack the life experience to judge them appropriately.

  • Chat with your kids about which chat rooms or message boards they visit, and whom they talk to. Encourage them to tell you if someone is bullying them or making them feel uncomfortable.
  • Be aware that teens may come across sites that are set up to be racist or homophobic. Be open to questioning and encourage your child to form their own opinions and not be influenced too much by others.
  • Insist that they never agree to meet an online friend. Or if you think they may do it anyway, try and encourage them to take a friend and to meet and stay in a public place.
  • Help protect your children from offensive pop-up windows by using the pop-up blocker that's built in to Internet Explorer.  Google bar (downloadable from http://toolbar.google.com/) also has an excellent pop up blocker.
  • Ask them to never to give out personal information, including photos of themselves, when using e-mail, chat rooms, or instant messaging or on personal profiles.
  • Teach your kids not to download programs, music, or files without your permission. They may be downloading something damaging, like a virus, or illegal software.
  • Discuss online adult content and pornography with them, and encourage them to look at positive sites about health and sexuality.
  • Help protect them from spam. Tell your teens not to give out their e-mail address online, not to respond to junk mail, and to use e-mail filters.
  • It is a good idea to talk to your kids about responsible online behaviour. Some children can be influenced to use the Internet to spread gossip, bully, or make threats against others.
  • Tell your kids to check with you before ordering, buying, or selling items online.

What to do if a child is being cyber-bullied, threatened or stalked

  • If a child is being bullied or harassed via their mobile you should be able to call their phone provider who can give you advice on how to deal with the offender.
  • If a bullying website has been put up the ISP should take down the offending site as soon as they are contacted if they think they have reason to.
  • If they are being bullied or harassed on a chat site then contact those that run the service who should ban the offender, or report them to the police if need be.
  • In more serious cases, where personal information has been obtained by a potential groomer, threats have been made or photos are being shared then the police should be contacted.
  • Encourage the child to keep records of all cases of bullying or harassment, this will help any case you have to present to the service provider or police.

Resources

You can find further information on the internet and other issues from the sites listed in our Internet and mobile links section.


Information on Safety online

Contact Wandsworth Safeguarding Children Board

020 8871 7401
wscb@wandsworth.gov.uk