Keeping children and young people safe when online

A young person online.
A young person online.
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This week has been Child Safety Week, so I would like to take a look at helping children and young people safe online.

The online world can seem a scary place for children, and for parents it can be difficult to keep calm and not react impulsively, confiscating devices for instance without a real conversation about online safety, and agreeing boundaries together.

One young person told Childline: “I have very protective parents who worry about who I talk to over the internet and if they knew I had gotten close to some of these people I think they’d stop me talking to them.

“I believe I’m capable of looking after myself in these ways, but I’m not really sure if I am, or I just believe I am. Is it wrong to be close to people that I’ve never met before, and that I know over the internet?”

It can be a difficult thing for young people, particularly as many have grown up with the internet being a huge part of their lives, to know who is being genuine online. Most will also want to feel responsible and in control of their online lives, so it can be a difficult step to admit when something has gone wrong – or when they need help.

At Childline we speak to lots of children and young people about instances where things have gone wrong – images have been shared without consent, someone isn’t who they say they are, or something – a picture or a post – receives significant negative attention.

But the way parents react when something does go wrong makes a big difference to children’s course of action in future.

For instance, we would recommend talking to a child about what went wrong and coming up with a solution together – whether that’s being honest about what they’re doing online, finding ways to report inappropriate material, or tackling online bullying.

But confiscating devices, which can seem like the safest option, may lead to a child being too nervous to have open conversations with things that worry them in future.

If you’re unsure, or need help and advice, you can call the O2 and NSPCC advice line for free on 0808 800 5002. For free confidential advice and support about any worries, children and young people can contact Childline on 0800 1111 or www.childline.org.uk