The internet is always changing and we understand how hard it can be to keep up to date with what children are doing online. Although they might feel like they know more than you, young people need advice and protection.

How online behaviour impacts others

Children need to be aware of how their online behaviour impacts other people and themselves. It's really important that they know who is able to view, share and comment on information they share online.

Children should be reminded to keep personal information safe and not share it with strangers. We teach children not to talk to strangers on the street – we should be teaching them not to do this online as well.

Discuss with your child the importance of telling you about any inappropriate behaviour, pictures, messages or information online and make sure you know where they can go to report it.

Making sure content is appropriate

Some things online are not suitable for children. They can access unsuitable information via social networks, online gaming, blogs and websites.

It's important that you know what your child is looking at and maintain an open dialogue so they feel comfortable and capable of talking to you about these things. It's important children know that not everything they access online is reliable and true.

Keeping an eye on privacy settings

New friends that your children make online may not be who they say they are and once they have made friends on social networking sites they will have access to your child's profile and therefore personal information. Regularly reviewing friends list and removing unwanted contacts is a useful step.

You should check your child's privacy settings to make sure they are robust. If you are unsure how to do this go to the help section of most social networking sites.

If you think that your child has been the subject of inappropriate sexual contact you should report this to the police at the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre.

If your child is the victim of cyber bullying this can also be reported online using the report buttons on all social networking sites or offline to teachers and in some cases the Police. Make sure your child knows that they can talk to someone they trust if they are being bullied or someone online is making them feel uncomfortable.

Spending money online

Children can inadvertently spend money only either on online gaming or within mobile phone apps. Make sure your children are aware that there may be hidden costs and how to spot these so you aren't hit with a big bill.

Further advice and tips to consider

  • Encourage your children to talk to you about their internet use - who they're talking to, what sites they're using and any issues they may have
  • Consider a 'family agreement' to explain your expectations to your child about their internet usage
  • Discuss different ways your children can tackle any issues they have online and make sure they feel comfortable doing so
  • Consider using filter software to block unwanted content
  • Encourage your children to 'think before you post' - once their information is online it can be shared and they can lose control.
  • Understand that some online behaviour may break the law 
  • Familiarise yourself with privacy setting and report/block buttons available on social networking sites
  • If your child is suffering from online bullying, save all the evidence and know how and where to report the incident
  • Encourage your children to use nicknames online instead of their full name and teach them how to create strong passwords
  • Ask your children to tell you about the sites they like to visit and what they enjoy doing online
  • Ask them about what they do to stay safe online - what tips they may have for you and if they know what's OK to share online
  • Ask them if they know where to go for help and how to change privacy settings and how to use the report/block buttons
  • Encourage them to help and show you how to do things.