Keeping kids safe online

The internet has become part of everyday life for people of all ages. Unfortunately, it can be a useful tool for people wishing to exploit children. It is important to protect children using the internet.

Internet chat rooms are often used by paedophiles to establish a relationship with their victims. They then ‘groom’ children to become victims, either on the internet, or by meeting in person. Often victims believe that they are chatting to other children on-line.

Children also need to be careful about encountering pornography on the internet. Exposure can cause psychological damage to children. It can give them unrealistic ideas about healthy sexual relationships. But child pornography is also a real concern.

Exploitative adults use the internet to find and exchange explicit pictures of children. These pictures are in high in demand. This means that pornographers will go to extreme lengths to entice children into getting involved.

Making it safe to surf

There are always ways you can help protect your child on-line and ensure that the internet is a safe space to learn and have fun.

Parental controls

One way to do this is to install parental controls on your computer or any smartphones. This will block your child from accessing sexually explicit content. Discuss this with your internet service provider (ISP) or a computer specialist. This will not provide a total safeguard, but it will offer some protection.

You can also set up a VPN, or Virtual Private Network. This covers your IP address so that online predators can't find out your child's location. 

You should also set up strong passwords for all accounts, to keep your child's information safe from hacking. Passwords are the strongest when they are a long combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. 

Set rules and boundaries

It is important to learn all you can about the internet. We teach our children about stranger danger in life, and the same should apply to online.

  • warn your child about internet dangers and lay down some ground rules about the time they spend on-line
    • this can include how long they are on the internet, what device they use, and what sites they are visiting
  • make sure you always have access to their computer, or are able to supervise their time online
  • warn them to never arrange to meet someone they met online; if they must, a trusted adult should be present
  • watch out for possible signs of exploitation or abuse or changes in your child’s mood or behaviour, such as
    • sleep disturbances or bedwetting
    • unexplained marks or bruises or self harm
    • problems at school
    • going missing
    • asking about sexual experiences and using adult terminology
    • evidence of pornographic material
  • be especially aware of any new friendships between your child and older people, whether male or female.

If your child does experience some form of exploitation, whether mild or severe, it is crucial to be 100% supportive. Make it clear that it is not their fault and that you are there to help and protect them no matter what.

Inclusive Digital Safety

We have created a range of resources to support parents and carers of vulnerable children. This includes children with:

  • special and educational needs and disabilities
  • LGBTQ+ young people
  • children in care

Our Inclusive Digital Safety project is a collaboration between Internet Matters and the SouthWest Grid for Learning (SWGfL).

It provides:

  • an Index of Online Harms to help respond and resolve any issues encountered online
  • a portal to connect parents with resources from expert organisations
  • a selection of new resources supporting parents of children with vulnerabilities
  • fact sheets and videos that highlight key insights for those supporting vulnerable children

Thinkuknow

Thinkuknow is an educational programme created by the National Crime Agency's Child Exploitation and Online Protection unit. It provides information for children, young people and parents about keeping safe, both online and offline.

Young Victims Service

The council's Young Victims Service has also created some guidance on how children and young people can stay safe online. Visit their website for more details. 

If you are concerned

Local police and social services have specific teams who are specially trained to investigate online crimes. They can also offer support to children and parents.