Steps to help protect your child online

Parents need to educate themselves and become comfortable with the Internet to communicate the dangers and risks of being online with your children.

Supervise your children on the Internet just as you would monitor what movies and TV shows they watch and the places they go with their friends.

You would not let your children open the door to a stranger, so don’t let them spend long hours online alone. GetSafeOnline offer free expert advice around using and protecting yourself against the dangers online. You can also download free online access control software so you can track your child’s use of the Internet and block objectionable material from reaching your household.

The NSPCC have created a suite of age appropriate Online Safety Checklists for Under 5’s, Primary Children, Teenagers and Safety Tips.

But remember: no product can fulfil all your needs and there is no substitute for your involvement and supervision of your children.

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With the proliferation of tablets and all the benefits they bring, children can potentially become exposed to apps that bring with them a degree of risk due to social networks.  Many are clearly labelled as inappropriate for young people, but some that are can carry dangers: parents need to have a clear view of what apps are installed on their children’s devices, especially as some of the more risky such as Facebook often come pre-installed.


Please follow the link below (Social Media and Young People: What You Need To Know) for a list of some apps that contain degrees of social networking and a short description with relevant information regarding safeguarding.

Social Media and Young People: What You Need To Know


Research shows that older teens in secondary schools are navigating away from Facebook but primary school children are gravitating towards it at an alarming rate with ever decreasing ages.

The UK Safer Internet Centre have very close working links with Facebook and at the Safer Internet Centre national eSafety briefings this year, the advice was as follows:

  • It is known under 13s use Facebook and this is an ongoing problem because the environment is not suitable for younger pupils. Continuing to support and educate young people is critical, but we should bear in mind the legalities of under 13s on Facebook.
  • Any under 13 signing up to Facebook does so with a falsified date of birth, which is, technically, fraud, though law enforcement would never be used to deal with this problem.
  • Facebook has to comply with COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998). This means Facebook may not hold any details of young people under the age of 13 and they may not advertise to this group either. This legal restriction applies to Facebook regardless of where the child is signing up from (America or the rest of the world).

Issues with Profiles
It is regularly observed that children’s Facebook profiles:

  • are not properly secured with poor privacy settings that mean anyone in the world can see their profile;
  • have pictures of them (and other children) in their school uniform, which makes them easily identifiable and means people can work out where they will be in real life;
  • have content which is wholly inappropriate in terms of the language and/or images on them. (And even if your child’s profile is appropriate, being ‘friends’ with someone who has such a profile means your child can see it).

Safeguarding issue with Facebook

  • Facebook use “age targeted” advertising and therefore your child could be exposed to adverts of a sexual or other inappropriate nature, depending on the age they stated they were when they registered.
  • Children may accept friend requests from people they don’t know in real life, which could increase the risk of inappropriate or dangerous contact or behaviour
  • Language, games, groups and content posted or shared on Facebook is not moderated, and therefore can be offensive, illegal or unsuitable for children.
  • Photographs shared by users are not moderated and therefore children could be exposed to inappropriate images or even post their own.
  • Underage users might be less likely to keep their identities private and lying about their age can expose them to further risks regarding privacy settings and options
  • Facebook could be exploited by bullies and for other inappropriate contact.
  • Facebook cannot and does not verify its members; therefore it is important to remember that if your child can lie about their age and who they are online, so can anyone else!

Parental Responsibility
We feel it is important to point out to parents the risks of underage use of such sites, so you can make an informed decision as to whether to allow your child to have a profile once they reach the age of 13.  Should you decide to allow your child to have a Facebook profile we strongly advise you to:

  • Check their profile is set to private and that only friends can see information that is posted
  • Monitor your child’s use and talk to them about safe and appropriate online behaviour such as not sharing personal information and not posting offensive messages or photos
  • Ask them to install the CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre) application from facebook.com/clickceop on their profile. This places a bookmark on their profile to CEOP and the Report Abuse button which has been known to deter offenders
  • Have a look at the advice for parents/carers from Facebook
  • Set up your own profile so you understand how the site works and ask them to have you as a friend on their profile so you know what they are posting online
  • Make sure your child understands the following basic E-safety rules.
    • Always keep your profile as private as possible.
    • If possible, don’t put in your full name, e.g. Bart S, instead of Bart Simpson
    • Never accept friends you don’t know in real life
    • Never post anything – writing or images – which could reveal your identity
    • Never post anything you wouldn’t want your parents to see
    • Never agree to meet somebody you only know online without telling a trusted adult
    • Always tell someone if you feel threatened or someone upsets you

As with all use of technology by young people, we recommend that all parents visit the CEOP Think U Know website for more information on keeping your child safe online.

Saferinternet.org.uk have put together a series of checks and links on Facebook which they keep up to date – it is well worth a visit for all parents.


Young people have fully embraced the Internet as both an environment and a tool for socialising. Via the Internet and other technologies, they send e-mail, create their own websites, post intimate personal news in blogs, send text messages and images via mobile phones, contact each other through IMs (instant messages), chat in chat rooms, post to discussion boards, and seek out new friends in teen sites.
Unfortunately, there are increasing reports of teenagers and younger children using these technologies to post damaging text or images to bully their peers or engage in other aggressive behaviour. There are also increasing reports of teens posting material that raises concerns that they are considering an act of violence toward others or themselves.

What is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is being cruel to others by sending or posting harmful material or engaging in other forms of social aggression using the Internet or other digital technologies and it can take different forms:

  • Flaming – Online fights using electronic messages with angry and vulgar language.
  • Harassment – Repeatedly sending nasty, mean, and insulting messages.
  • Denigration – “Dissing” someone online. Sending or posting gossip or rumours about a person to damage his or her reputation or friendships.
  • Impersonation – Pretending to be someone else and sending or posting material to get that person in trouble or danger or to damage that person’s reputation or friendships.
  • Outing – Sharing someone’s secrets or embarrassing information or images online.
  • Trickery – Talking someone into revealing secrets or embarrassing information, then sharing it online.
  • Exclusion – Intentionally and cruelly excluding someone from an online group.
  • Cyberstalking – Repeated, intense harassment and denigration that includes threats or creates significant fear.

Impact of Cyberbullying:

It is widely known that face-to-face bullying can result in long-term psychological harm to targets. This harm includes low self-esteem, depression, anger, academic failure and avoidance, and, in some cases, violence in the school or community or in some cases suicide. It is possible that the harm caused by cyberbullying may be greater than harm caused by traditional bullying because:

    • Online communications can be extremely vicious.
    • There is no escape for those who are being cyberbullied—victimisation is on-going, 24/7.
    • Cyberbullying material can be distributed worldwide and is often irretrievable.
    • Cyberbullies can be anonymous and can solicit the involvement of unknown “friends.”
    • Teens may be reluctant to tell adults what is happening because they are emotionally traumatised, think it is their fault, fear greater retribution and fear online activities or mobile phone use will be restricted

National Statistics

  • In 2013 the national anti-bullying charity Ditch the Label found that 69% of the young people under 18 who completed the survey had been a victim of cyberbullying. 37% experienced cyberbullying on a highly frequent basis, with 20% experiencing extreme cyberbullying on a daily basis.
  • New research suggests that young males and females are equally at risk of being cyberbullied.
  • Facebook, AskFM and Twitter were found to be the most likely sources of cyberbullying with 54% of young people who use Facebook being cyberbullied.
  • An estimated 5.43 million young people in the UK have experienced cyberbullying, with 1.26 million subjected to extreme cyberbullying on a daily basis.
  • A survey 11 & 12 year olds about social networking undertaken by the NSPCC found that almost 50% have a profile on a social networking site; 23% experienced upset while social networking; 23% were excluded from a social group or friendship; 22% were sent unwanted sexual messages; 17% had their personal information used without their permission or were asked for it and 45% experienced Trolling.

Cyberbullying and the Law
There is no legal definition of cyberbullying within UK law. However there are a number of existing laws that can be applied to cases of cyberbullying and online harassment, namely:

  • Protection from Harassment Act 1997
  • Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994
  • Malicious Communications Act 1988
  • Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003

If someone is targeted online because of attitudes towards disability, race, ethnicity, religion/belief, sexual orientation or transgender identity then this could be classed as a hate crime

Roles in Cyberbullying
If a child has been involved in cyberbullying, they usually take on one of these roles:

  • Bullies – “put-downers” who harass and demean others, especially those they think are different or inferior, or “get-backers” who have been bullied by others and are using the internet to retaliate or vent their anger
  • Targets – the targets of the cyberbully, who in some cases may be the bullies at school and in other cases, the targets.
  • Harmful bystanders – those who encourage and support the bully or watch the bullying from the side-lines, but do nothing to intervene or help the target.
  • Helpful bystanders – those who seek to stop the bullying, protest against it, provide support to the target, or tell an adult.

What can be done to prevent your child being a cyberbully?

Help them develop self-awareness, empathy and effective decision-making by asking these questions:

  • Am I being kind and showing respect for others and myself?
  • How would I feel if someone did the same thing to me, my family or to my best friend?
  • What would a trusted adult, someone who is important in my life, think?
  • Is this action in violation of any agreements, rules, school policies or laws?
  • How would I feel if others found out it was me?
  • How does this action reflect on me?

Warn against online retaliation.  Some young people who engage in cyberbullying are retaliating against those who are bullying them face-to-face. Help your child understand that retaliating is not smart because when targets lose their cool, it allows the bullies to justify their behaviour.

Here are a few tips to help you get started:

1. Place your computer in a common area of the house.
This is probably the most important thing you can do. Do not let your children be in their rooms all night on the Internet. The mere presence of parents can have a tremendous effect on a child’s online activities. It’s much more difficult for someone to sexually exploit a child when the computer screen is visible to a parent or other member of the household.

2. Educate yourself about computers and the Internet.
You need to know how to use the Internet in order to know what your children are doing on it. Take a basic computer class, check relevant sites or buy a book about the Internet. Check with your ISP (Internet Service Provider) for information on using all of their services. Go to some of the sites listed in “Resources” to help you get started.

3. Spend time with your children online.
Ask your children how they use the Internet and have them teach you about their favourite destinations. Make “surfing the Net” a family experience. Just as you look for good television programs for your children, take the time to find the best and most useful websites for them.

4. Make reasonable rules and set time and use limits. Enforce them.
You should set guidelines about what your children can and cannot do on the Internet. Try to understand their needs, interest and curiosity. But, you must set limits on when they may use the Internet and for how long. Use an agreement or contract for everyone to sign listing the rules about keeping safe online.

5. Educate yourself and your child about the dangers of the Internet.
Teach your children about sexual victimisation and other potential dangers of the Internet. Talk openly and honestly with your children about what they are doing online and what your concerns are.

6. Do not allow your child to go into private chat rooms, especially when you are not present.
Computer sex offenders will often meet potential victims using chat rooms. Later, they’ll attempt to communicate with young people by way of e-mail or instant messaging. If you can, try to keep your child out of chat rooms altogether. You never know who is in a chat room watching and waiting for a victim.

7. Reinforce the guiding rule, “Don’t talk to strangers.”
Tell your children what they are told online may, or may not, be true. No matter how much their online “buddies” seem like friends who share interests, they are still strangers. Remember, paedophiles pretend to be children.

8. Put accounts in your name and know your child’s passwords.
The Internet account and primary screen name should be in your name, not your children’s names. It’s also a good idea to know your children’s passwords and let them know you will check their online activity.

9. Never allow your children to arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone they met online without your permission.
Many predators want to meet a child for sexual contact. Your child should never meet a stranger alone in a face-to-face meeting. If you ever do agree to a meeting, make sure it is in a public place and accompany your child.

10. Do not let your child give out any personal information of any kind on the Internet.
Children should never give out their name, home address, telephone number or school name. They should be aware that even naming a friend, local sports team, shopping centre or community event could give away their identities. Also be aware that sharing photos could contain the details of the place it was taken in the metadata.

11. Do not let your child download or upload pictures without your permission.
Predators will often send photographs or visuals to children as part of a grooming process to gain trust. Some of the photographs may be pornographic and may even involve child pornography.

12. Utilise your Internet Service Provider’s parental controls and commercial blocking and filtering software tools.
Most ISP’s have parental controls – use them. Other filtering and monitoring software programs can be purchased separately. Monitors show a history of use so you can see where your child has been on the Internet. Filters block access to objectionable material. Remember, while parents should utilise monitors and filters, do not totally rely upon them. There is no substitute for parental guidance and supervision.

13. Be sensitive to changes in your children’s behaviours that may indicate they are being victimised.
Be alert to personality changes. If victimized online, children may become withdrawn from their families or secretive about their activities. Computer sex offenders work very hard at driving a wedge between children and their parents.

14. Be alert to a teenager or adult who is paying an unusual amount of attention to your children or giving them gifts.
Most sexual offenders are not just satisfied with the computer. Eventually, they want to talk to the children on the telephone, engage in “phone sex” and set up a meeting. As part of a “seduction” process, a sexual offender may send letters, photographs, gifts or packages to potential victims. Some offenders have even sent children digital cameras and plane tickets.

15. Be aware of other computers your children could be using.
Your children probably use computers at the library, school, friends’ houses – maybe even cyber-cafés. Talk to your children about other computers they use.

16. Be aware of your child using another person’s screen name.
Watch for your child using an online account belonging to someone else in order to bypass filters or monitors on your computer. Computer sex offenders may provide potential victims with a computer account for communication with them.

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