The digital world changes daily and it might seem that children can often be better at understanding and using it than the adults in their lives. However, the pace of change and the nature of what is possible and accessible using digital technology means supporting our students to guide them in its safe and appropriate use as parents and teachers is more important than ever before.
Guidance for parents and carers on online sexual harassment and keeping children safe online
The Children’s Commissioner is today launching a guide for parents and carers on online sexual harassment and how they can support children to stay safe online.
“The things I wish my parents had known” draws together advice from 16 to 21 year olds on how parents should manage tricky conversations around sexual harassment and access to inappropriate content, including pornography.
The Commissioner’s office began a programme of work focussing on peer-on-peer abuse following the avalanche of testimonies on the Everyone’s Invited website, which laid bare an epidemic of sexual violence among teens. This was picked up in Ofsted’s June 2021 review of sexual harassment in schools and colleges.
A surprising but overriding message from young people is that parents should start these challenging conversations early. They suggest broaching topics before a child is given a phone or a social media account, which is often around the age of 9 or 10.
If you need support around this please contact the safeguarding team.
Talking to your child about online safety
It is recommended that you speak regularly to your child about what they’re doing online or who they might be speaking to. Starting this conversation can be difficult, so it is important to remember that for young people online life often feels like real life. Sometimes, it can be easier for children to talk to their parents/carers about awkward subjects when they are doing something else as well, such as walking together, eating together, sharing a car journey, or doing something practical together such as gardening.
Talking about it could make a young person feel uncomfortable, worried, annoyed or confused as it may feel you are intruding on their privacy. But talking regularly, like you would about their day at school, will help your child feel relaxed and mean they’re more likely to come and speak to you if they are worried. When starting a conversation it may help to:
• Reassure them that you’re interested in their life, online and offline. Recognise how important and valuable the internet is and how you both use it.
• Ask your child to show you what they enjoy doing online and which apps they use so you can understand them.
• Recognise that young people tend to turn to social media when feeling lonely or have poor mental health. This puts them at higher risk of being groomed online.
• Be positive and open about how you feel. Phrases such as “I think this site is really good” or “I’m a little worried about things I have seen here” might be helpful.
• Let them know they can come to you and ask if they are worried or confused about anything.
• Ask them about their online friends, how they met and how your child knows who they say they are.
• If you don’t think apps or sites are suitable, listen to your child’s reasons for wanting to use them and talk about this together.
• Talk about how pictures, videos or comments that are posted online can be very difficult to remove and rarely remain private.
• Discuss the pressures for young people to send inappropriate or indecent images to each including nudes or semi-nudes. How might this behaviour affect their relationship? Do they know what they would do?
• Discuss how images can be copied, saved and shared without their knowledge and if they are under 18, they are also breaking the law by making and sending a nude or semi-nude picture of themselves or others.
• Improve your own knowledge by finding out about some of the issues your child could experience.
Setting some house rules to keep the whole family safe
It may be beneficial to discuss and agree as a family how the internet will be used in your house.
Let your child tell you what they think is acceptable and isn’t for them to do online, such as being nasty to people, keeping personal information private and speaking to an adult when they are worried. Then add your own rules like how long they are allowed to spend online and not using cameras in bedrooms.
• Make sure that your child understands that their actions and behaviours online can have offline consequences.
• Agree on sanctions for breaking the rules.
• You might find it helpful to write these ‘ground rules’ down as a visual reminder.
Remember these are whole family rules, so consider your own use of the internet and lead by example. Consider how much information you are sharing on your social networks about your child and who can see it.
Keeping your child safe:
Make the most of the parental controls on your child’s internet-enabled devices and games consoles.
• Make sure you apply parental controls to all internet devices in your household. They can restrict access to inappropriate content and can help you manage how much time your child spends online.
• Make sure your child understands that parental controls are in place to protect them, not restrict them; some children will actively work around parental controls if they feel constrained without knowing why.
• Find out about the apps your child is using. This site covers most the popular apps young people are currently using:
• Set up filters on internet search engines to limit the likelihood of your children accidentally coming across inappropriate content when searching online.
• Be aware that internet history can be hidden and deleted, so make sure you talk to your children.
• Remember that filters will never be 100% effective so you cannot rely on them alone to protect your children. It is important that your children understand that they should tell you straight away if they come across something inappropriate or upsetting online.
It is important to monitor your child’s behaviour, mood and presentation as any changes could be an indication that something is upsetting your child online. Children who are groomed, radicalised or exploited online will often be pressured to withdraw from family and friends.
If you have specific concerns you can also contact us at:
Manage Online Safety In Your Home
How to have a conversation with your child about internet safety:
Have a conversation | Safer Internet Centre
Advice centre for parents ‘Thinkuknow’:
Online safety advice link for parents UK Safer Internet Centre:
Tips, advice, guides and resources to help keep your child safe online
Advice for parents regarding sexting:
Sexting and Sending Nudes
Keep Lines Of Communication Open
Sometimes conversations about using technology don’t occur until things go wrong. By regularly checking in and taking an interest in what your child does online with their smartphone / tablet / PC etc, you can make it more likely that they’ll feel comfortable to tell you when things aren’t right. This will also help you to feel more empowered to ask questions when you’re concerned about their technology use.
This app sends notifications to the parents phone if inappropriate images are sent or received on their child’s phone https://www.galleryguardian.co.uk
It also can be used as a tracking device on both android and iphone devices. Set geo fences to receive alerts when your child arrives at a set location.
Check what’s out there and what the potential pitfalls are
NSPCC ShareAware and Internet Matters.org are great resources created for parents. Both have a searchable list of popular apps, with an age guide and details to help you decide if it is appropriate for your child to use. This gives you an initial overview of what each app does; however, please be aware that we have come across some inappropriate uses of otherwise completely innocuous apps, so we have given some examples of the potential pitfalls below to help give you an idea of what to look for and ask your child about.
• Apps that offer live-streaming
○ Live streaming is where someone shares their video live, as they make it. This can increase the risk of viewing inappropriate material and/or exposure to inappropriate comments or involvement by others as the content is made immediately available and isn’t subject to any checks. This was highlighted in the national news in June 2017 when a Channel 4 investigation found strangers were making inappropriate comments on videos being broadcast by children.
• Apps without strict privacy policies & apps that link strangers together
○ Contact with strangers:
▪ Online gaming can involve children coming into verbal or text contact with other gamers as they play with or against them within a game
▪ Some apps link random users together on purpose, or allow strangers to search, find and contact users who haven’t necessarily added them
▪ It can be very difficult for users to control who adds or follows them when the app or website doesn’t have strict privacy settings (i.e. who can view and comment on the content they share).
▪ Some websites and apps allow strangers to comment on posts or even photos of other people to ‘give feedback’
○ A child may think talking to a random person is just a bit of fun and may not be able to judge whether the interaction is appropriate or not. It may be that they are exposed to someone being unkind, rude, aggressive, age inappropriate and so on, which can be frightening and confusing.
• Lack of stringent age controls
○ In the UK, social media apps usually have a minimum age of 13 and sometimes older. However, this is often easy to get around by inputting a fake date or birth or ticking a box to say they are older. This can lead to children being able to access content that is intended for an older audience without parents being aware
○ An update to Snapchat in 2017 introduced a location-sharing feature that allows other users to see where you are, based upon your GPS signal and nearby WiFi connections. Whatsapp has also recently added a similar function, although it needs to be switched on by the user rather than being automatically switched on as standard.
○ Many photo apps (including Camera on iOS) have geotagging switched on as standard. This means the location of the photo (as it was taken) is encoded into the image data. It is relatively easy for anyone ‘following’ the child’s social media uploads to use this data to locate where the photo was taken to within a small range, such as the street you live on. This can be switched off in the settings for the specific app but may not be something your child is aware that they need to do.
ISPs & Online Safety
Your Internet Service Provider (e.g. Virgin Media, Sky, Talk Talk, etc) may have safety measures available that you can put in place on your home internet connection. Here are links to some of the main ones:
Virgin Media - http://www.virginmedia.com/shop/broadband/parental-control.html
The internet is such a big part of children’s lives now. Children are increasingly accessing the service whether it be on a laptop, mobile phone or PC. It can create so many educational and social opportunities, along with access to a world of information. We are asking that you help us to ensure your child’s safety online by acting as you would to protect your child in the non-virtual world.
By helping us to do this you are giving your child a life skill that they can use to get the most from the internet, yet stay safe whilst doing it.
This booklet has been designed to help you, as a parent to understand the sites that your children are accessing and the actions you can take to make sure they are safe whilst using the computer.
YMCA Wise Project
YMCA WiSE Project - Supporting children and young people to stay safe in their relationships in Brighton and Hove, East Sussex and Surrey:
If you would like to talk to a worker at WiSE then please find all of our contact details here:
Facebook is becoming a big part of most teenagers’ lives and it has come to our attention that lots of our older pupils are accessing the social network. We would like to remind you that the age limit for registering is 13 years old. When Facebook is abused it can become a great danger to its users. Friends can have arguments and verbally abuse each other and post abusive comments on each others’ walls. Other friends can become involved and the next thing you know it has become a huge friendship issue which is then brought to school, causing a considerable amount of upset for all involved.
Is the school responsible for what happens on Facebook between pupils?
The short answer is “no”. Facebook is a social network that people can only access outside of school. As a parent it is your responsibility to monitor your child’s interactions on websites, including Facebook. If you monitor your child’s Facebook page and see something that concerns you, then you need to contact Facebook directly.
What are the best ways to monitor your child’s usage?
1. Do not let your child sit their bedroom on their own unsupervised with a laptop or computer
2. Know your child passwords; this way you can access their account
3. Talk openly about what sites your child is viewing
4. Have your own Facebook profile and be friends with your child. This way you can view their wall
5. Add your email as the main contact so you will receive notification emails
6. Observe the age limit. You have to be 13 to register
If you are allowing a child have a Facebook account despite the age restrictions then you should monitor their usage.