How to protect your child when they are online

Children use a mobile for social media and surf the internet.
Children use a mobile for social media and surf the internet.
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The internet gives young people a forum to express themselves, communicate and be creative.

It can make them feel connected and understood. But the online world also presents risks, such as exposing them to inappropriate or upsetting content and abuse.

Over the last year, Childline has delivered more than 3,000 counselling sessions about online safety and bullying, and 2,200 about sexual abuse on the internet.

Young people’s concerns include being contacted by people they don’t know, bullying and nasty comments, and seeing inappropriate content.

Our research* has shown that almost a quarter of young people have been contacted online by an adult stranger and the same amount have been sent upsetting content.

And about seven per cent of children under the age of 13 have been asked to send a sexual image or message.

One 14-year-old girl told Childline of her concerns about someone she had met online.

She said: “Even though we’ve only just met she’s become really possessive and threatens me when I don’t reply to her.

“I’ve never met her in real life but she keeps asking me to meet up, it’s a bit creepy.”

It is therefore so important that young people know how to keep themselves safe online – and that their parents talk to them about this.

Our advice to young people is: do not get into conversations or accept friend requests from people who you do not know, never share a sexual photograph of yourself online and if anything that you see or happens online makes you feel uncomfortable, tell a trusted adult.

Parents can feel daunted by the digital world and find it difficult to keep a track of the apps their child is using and what they are viewing online.

The NSPCC and O2 have been working together to provide advice to parents about keeping their child safe online, such as information about different apps and changing privacy settings and turning off location sharing.

The most important thing, whether you are a young person or a parent, is to talk to one another about your online experiences.

Parents and young people can explore sites and apps together, talk about any concerns they have and agree rules and boundaries to protect against risks.

Anyone looking for further online safety advice can contact the O2 NSPCC online safety helpline on 0808 800 5002 or pop into an O2 store where an O2 Guru can help.

They can also visit www.net-aware.org.uk and www.nspcc.org.uk/preventing-abuse/keeping-children-safe/share-aware/
Young people with any concerns can contact Childline on 0800 1111 or www.childline.org.uk
*Based on a survey carried of more than 2,000 young people, aged 11-18, across the UK.