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Six short lessons in online safety

On this page

  1. start talking now
  2. do what you want to see
  3. control the devices
  4. control the content
  5. educate yourself
  6. get help in an emergency

1: start talking now

Make the habit of talking about what you and your child do online. They have to be curious in order to learn, so teach them to talk to you if curiosity leads them to puzzling or upsetting places as well as funny and fascinating ones. Start the conversation by reading' Hanni and the Magic Window' with your child. Click on the picture to open the book:

by Ami Lockwood and Saba Lasheiei

This book was written to teach children aged 3 and older how to speak out and get help if they see something they don't like. Ami Lockwood and Saba Lasheiei created it for Childnet.

Please also read these Be Safe Online rules with them. Answer their questions and help them to understand:

  • I only go online with a grown up
  • I am kind online
  • I keep information about me safe
  • I tell a grown up if something online makes me unhappy

When they are older, introduce the idea of a Digital 5 A Day, acknowledging the benefits as well as the things to beware and achieving online/offline balance.

2: do what you want to see

Your child learns most from you, so model safe, responsible and positive behaviours in your own use of technology:

  • Treat yourself and others with respect at all times; treat people in the same way when you are online or on a device as you would face to face.
  • Don’t share others people’s images or details without their permission and don’t post negative, threatening or violent comments about anyone, including anyone to do with school.

Look at your own use of devices now so that when your children are older, you don’t ask them to do something you aren’t willing to do yourself, and you can support them to get the many benefits of the online world in a safe and healthy way. Techniques some people use (or try to) include:

  • Keeping devices in shared spaces, e.g. the kitchen or living room
  • Agreeing a number of minutes or hours per day for specific activities (remembering that as they get older, doing homework while in contact with friends via devices builds teamwork skills as well as a support network)
  • Agreeing upfront if there are chores/homework to do before the privilege of using an electronic device
  • Eating together and having a ban on all phones while you eat
  • Using night mode on devices straight after the evening meal
  • Using the Forest app to manage phone screen time; read about it here: Forest app helps manage screen time | Internet Matters
  • Setting a bedtime for devices and for WiFi: having an hour between looking at a screen and going to bed leads to better sleep
  • Putting all devices to bed in a box in the kitchen
  • Agreeing and writing down how all the family will use electronic devices. Click here for the NSPCC one: complete it online or print it out and fill it in. Share what you agree with wider family and babysitters

3: control the devices

Internet matters website shows you how to set up parental controls on your different devices. Get step-by-step advice on how to do this for the main internet service providers in the UK and the majority of devices.

Set up a firewall: if you have a wireless internet router, it is likely you can set up a firewall for your home.

Keep anti-virus software up-to-date.

Set a unique password for parental controls and choose one that your child can’t work out easily.

Public WiFi may not include parental controls, so be vigilant of what is being accessed while you are out and about.

Some connected devices or toys work by listening to your child’s voice commands, so these devices usually record and keep these audio files to work properly. The device manual will show you how to review and/or delete these audio files, and how to control the personal information that is stored, including your location. If there’s a microphone on your child’s connected device, turning on the ‘mute’ button will stop the device from recording and storing audio files. 

4: control the content

Block pop ups

pop ups can lead to places and spending money that you want to avoid. Learn how to block them.

Set a child-friendly home page

e.g. the child-friendly search engine swiggle or CBeebies

Watch out on YouTube

The YouTube Kids app is an alternative to YouTube with age-appropriate content for which you can set limits

We strongly advise that you don’t allow your child to watch YouTube unless you watch alongside them

Use ‘safe search’

Bookmark places you like

Resist pester power

Resist requests to let them join platforms where they are below the minimum age limit. They will say that everyone else is on ‘X’; everyone else is not. Yet. Talk to other families so you can present a united front.

If you do decide to let them do this after you’ve talked about it, know that those discussions in themselves are valuable, and help build an open and honest relationship.

Check ratings of films

On the British board of film classification website.

Find suggestions forsuggestions for home movie nights or special occasions.

Check ratings of games

 On the PEGI website.

What’s everyone else watching/playing?

read what lots of children and their families think of games and films on the common sense media website

5: educate yourself

Your child will be a superb detective into all things digital. These are places that can help you keep up:

Safer internet organisation guide for parents and carers

  • content
  • current issues
  • devices
  • parental controls

Parent zone advice for parents and carers

  • things your child might want to play with online, e.g. Animal Crossing, TikTok, and Netflix
  • strategies for what to do if you aren't happy with how things are going

Digital Parenting annual magazine: download it at the bottom of this page.

  • Articles and information about the latest developments and what you can do to help your child get the most from them safely

Keeping children safe online | NSPCC

  • searchable website with most things you'd want to know about e-safety, reviews of sites, apps and games, and advice about e-safe behaviour

London grid for learning website

  • Advice in some community languages

Virgin Media advice for parents and carers

  • an online test to check where you need to know more
  • the 'more' so you can score better next time
  • an ever-updating source of information which will be useful as your children get older

6: Get help in an emergency

Report inappropriate online behaviour and get help on the Child exploitation and online protection website.

London Grid for learning have a curated list of helplines for specific situations.

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