Keep your child safe online


Parents need to bear in mind that young people are struggling to make sense of who they are and where they fit in. Their online presence is a vital part of that. Young people may also have a different sense than their parents of where the boundaries lie. Both young people and parents need to be streetwise as being online is not wholly controllable. Young people need to have the same levels of alertness and judgement that they would in any public place. It’s really important that they know:

  • Stuff stays around, online content lasts
  • It’s very visible. There is potential for a huge audience for our child or teens’ mistakes
  • It can go viral. There’s a chance that images or messages could spread rapidly
  • It’s searchable. People can look up our young people and find them easily

Top tips on keeping your child safe online when gaming:

Important resources:

  • NSPCC: keeping children safe online
  • Thinkuknow: Thinkuknow is an education programme from the National Crime Agency’s CEOP Command. These Home Activity Packs contain simple 15 minute activities you can do with your family to support their online safety at home.

Report any concerns about grooming, sexual abuse or exploitation on any online app or site to the National Crime Agency's Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command (CEOP).

If you are concerned your child is in immediate danger, call the police on 999 straight away.

Childline is here to help anyone under 19 in the UK with any issue they're going through. You can talk about anything, big or small. Childline is free, confiential and available any time, day or night on 0800 1111.

  • There’s no substitute for talking. It’s good to talk to your child about what they do in the online world
  • Try out the technologies your child enjoys. Download some of their music and have a go at games they like
  • Talk to friends and family about how they manage their children's digital lives
  • Remind older siblings that websites they use may not be suitable for younger brothers and sisters
  • Make digital issues part of everyday conversation. Talk about subjects like cyberbullying, sexting and copyright infringement
  • When you're talking about bullying, sex and relationships and other issues, don't forget to include the online aspects
  • Talk to your children about whether the issues they face are different online and offline. Talk about how online and offline worlds work together to complicate their lives
  • It is very important to set boundaries and rules
  • Your digital use is a model for your child. If you check for emails and social media posts all of the time, your child is likely to do the same

You can find out more on Parent info

The Digital 5 A Day Campaign provides a simple framework that reflects the concerns of parents and carers, as well as children’s behaviours and needs. It gives children and parents easy to follow, practical steps.

Visit the Lurking Trolls website for advice on how to protect your child from online harm. 

Children need boundaries to help them grow into respectful, confident and productive adults. They also help children feel safe and contained. Young people also need freedom to try things out, make mistakes and develop their independence. The boundaries we set help children learn to set limits for themselves and develop self discipline.

Boundaries are equally important when it comes to technology. The digital world is so exciting for young people that they’ll probably need your help to find a balance between online and offline time. Some boundaries will be non negotiable, especially when it comes to the safety of your child and others. Others will be more flexible. You may, for instance, want to set different limits on screen time during exams than over school holidays.

Key tips for setting boundaries:

  • Know your child. Get to know what is normal at each age and stage of your child's development. Setting boundaries that work will be much easier if your expectations of how they should behave match where they are developmentally. For example, don’t expect young children to be able to switch off their games at a moment’s notice. They often find it easier to disconnect if given a 10 minute warning.
  • Stay consistent. Children need clear limits and boundaries. They will not thrive or survive without them and neither will you! Rules that are clear and simple are easier to stick to. Children’s memories aren’t that good so you may find yourself repeating them. Make sure that they know what is expected of them and what the consequences will be if the rules are broken.
  • Allow room for negotiation. Children are more likely to stick to the boundaries they help create. Making sure they know the reasons behind rules will help prepare them to regulate their own behaviour as they grow up. Talk to your children about how you expect them to behave and give them the chance to voice their opinions. Let them know that some rules are non negotiable, like being careful who you talk to online, while others can be discussed. Pick your battles carefully and don't over burden your child with too many rules.
  • Recognise good behaviour. Try not to fall into the trap of always focusing on the negative. Recognise when things are good and your child has stuck to the boundaries,  especially if they’ve found this hard before. This will encourage them to keep it up.


Social networking is a massive part of young people’s lives. It can sometimes seem as though apps like Snapchat, Instagram, Vine and Facebook take up most of a typical teen’s waking hours.

As a parent, it’s natural to worry about what your child does on social media and the amount of time they spend doing it. If you’re not active on Snapchat yourself, it can be hard to understand the sending and viewing pictures designed to self destruct. Even if you do use some of the major social networks, it often seems like new ones are popping up every minute.

Many of the things you’ll have to think about when helping your child enjoy social media are similar to the things you think about in their offline friendships. Are they getting too hung up on what other people think? Are their friends pressuring them or undermining their confidence? And of course, there are some specific issues that come with socialising online.

Some tips to help you and your child navigate the world of social media:

Age limits. Most social media has a minimum age. The most common one by far is 13. You might think your child is ready at a younger age or should wait until they’re even older. Still, it’s important to remember that sites and apps that are 13 and above may not have measures in place to protect younger children, or could allow content that’s aimed at an older age group.

Set some ground rules. Especially when your child first starts using social media. It’s a good idea to talk about what is and isn’t allowed. For instance, you might be happy for your child to have a Facebook account but only want them to accept friends they know in real life.

Know the tools. Safety tools and privacy settings are an important part of using social media responsibly. Talk to your child about how to find blocking and reporting tools and privacy settings on their favourite apps. Talk about why it's a good idea to use them. Find out more information on setting safety and privacy settings on social media apps.

Comparing yourself to others. It’s easy to get a bit down on yourself after scrolling through a feed of pictures of all your friends having a great time. It's important to realise that people only post about the "best moments" and they shouldn't compare themselves to this. Remember that no one is as perfect as their social media account would suggest.

What others think about you. Everyone likes to be appreciated. It feels good when friends like or share your posts on social media. It’s also easy for teens and young people to get too preoccupied with what their peers think of them. Make sure your child knows you’re always there for them. If it ever feels like they’ve got no online friends remind them of all the things they’re good at and loved for offline. If your child is one of the few with thousands of adoring followers, talk about how no one can please everyone all the time. It’s risky to base your sense of identity and wellbeing too closely on other people’s opinions.

Bullying. Some people do use social media specifically to bully others. Whether it’s cruel comments on pictures, nasty messages or a dedicated hate group, online bullying can be very hurtful. It can feel harder to escape than offline bullying. Fortunately, just about all the major social media platforms come with tools for blocking other users and reporting abuse. Find out more information on tackling online bullying. You should also make sure your child knows how and how not to treat other people online. Something that seems like a harmless joke to one group of friends could end up really hurting someone else.

Digital footprint. Your children have probably heard it all before, but it’s still important to remind them that what goes online stays online. Making hurtful comments or posting compromising pictures could give people the wrong idea about who they really are and could even affect their school and work options later in life.

Don’t forget the positives. Your child’s digital footprint doesn’t have to be a risk to be managed. Using social media positively and creatively can help them build an online reputation to be proud of. Lots of worthwhile causes use social media to campaign and raise awareness. Your child can use it to get involved in something they care about. It can also be a useful tool for staying informed and keeping in touch with friends and family.

Stay involved. You don’t have to know about every new app that’s popular with teens but it’s smart to have a general sense of what your child gets up to. You probably want to know where your child goes and what they do with friends in the offline world, it’s the same thing online.

For further information read this Social media guide for parents and carers.

What is sexting?

  • Sharing images of a sexual nature with a boyfriend or girlfriend
  • Sharing images of a sexual nature with someone you like
  • Passing on images of a sexual nature to groups of friends without permission

Research by Plymouth University found that 40% of 14 to 16 year olds said they had friends who had engaged in this kind of texting.

  • 20% of them didn't think there was anything wrong with sending images involving full nudity
  • 40% thought going topless was acceptable

Visit Childline for advice about how to report and remove a nude image shared online.

What should you be concerned about?

Most of us made mistakes in our teenage years, that’s part of growing up. However, our mistakes weren’t recorded for ‘safekeeping’! These days, young people record their lives on a minute by minute basis. The images they create can be copied, manipulated, posted online and sent to other people in a matter of seconds. Ex partners have been known to pass on images after a relationship has come to an end, as a means of revenge.

You, or your child, could be breaking the law by taking, holding or sharing indecent images of a minor. And if these images are stored on a family computer, you, as a parent, could be implicated. Any image of a person under 18 sent may constitute an indecent image of a child in legal terms, and be prosecutable under the Protection of Children Act 1978.

The police are concerned that sex offenders search for these kinds of images and may use them to blackmail people.

What can you do?

  • Talk to children about the fact that once images as online they are there forever and you have no control over what happens to them
  • Urge your child to think before they post
  • Warn them against passing on images of others
  • Remember that it's normal for teenagers to do unwise things. How daft would you have been if you'd had a smart phone in your pocket?

Just found out that your child had been sexting? Visit the anti-bullying website for further information.

Hateful or sexually inappropriate content

  • Report it directly to the content provider, such as a social media or online video provider. Ask them to remove hate filled or sexualised content.
  • Most social media platforms have simple processes in place for reporting inappropriate content. Try searching for 'report'. Look through their terms and conditions or in their 'help' section.
  • True Vision is a police funded site that provides information about hate crime. You can report all forms of hate crime, including online content, at This includes racial, homophobic, transphobic, religious or disability hate crime.

If you have any concerns about grooming, sexual abuse or exploitation on any online app or site. Report to CEOP (the National Crime Agency's Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command) .

If you are concerned that your child is in immediate danger, call 999 straight away.


Some people do use social media specifically to bully others. Whether it’s cruel comments on pictures, nasty messages or a dedicated hate group, online bullying can be very hurtful. It can feel harder to escape than offline bullying. Fortunately, just about all the major social media platforms come with tools for blocking other users and reporting abuse. Visit for more information on tackling online bullying.

Mobile phone content

Report any unsuitable online content (film, still images or even plain text) that your child sees using their mobile phone to your mobile operator.

Inappropriate contact with an adult online

Report to CEOP (part of the National Crime Agency) if you know or suspect your child has been communicating with an adult online who has tried to do any of the following:

  • talked about sex or other inappropriate sexual activity
  • asked them to do something that makes them feel uncomfortable, such as send them a naked or partially-clothed image
  • asked them to meet them offline
  • asked them to lie to their parents about, or tried to hide, their online relationship

Images of child sexual abuse

Sadly, anyone can stumble across online child sexual abuse images and videos. If you do, you can make an anonymous and confidential report to the Internet Watch Foundation at

This guidance has been reviewed and adapted by healthcare professionals across West Yorkshire with consent from the Hampshire development groups.