26 August 2020

Back to school: how do I keep my kids safe online?

Back to school article

For a lot of kids, going back to school can mean new and exciting ways of going online. Whether it’s making new friends and keeping in touch with them over apps, playing the latest game, getting a new phone or spending more time online doing school work. We’ve got tips on how to help your child stay safe when school starts again.

1. Think about online routines


When school starts, routines might change, whether it’s the time your child wakes up or how much schoolwork they do online.


A new school year is a great time to have another conversation with your child about online safety and agree some rules to help keep them safe. We’ve created an online family agreement so you and your child can decide together what’s good to do online and what you should look out for.


Once you’re both happy, why not stick on the wall in a place you’ll both see it regularly? You can then come back to it every month or two to see if it’s working and update it as routines change.

2. Have a conversation about online pressures and cyberbullying


Going back to school means kids will be seeing friends again or making new ones, especially when they move from primary to secondary. This could mean your child uses new apps to keep in touch with their friends or feel more pressure to stay connected.


Remember to talk to your child about what they’re doing online and who they’re talking to. Check in with them regularly and remind them they can talk to you, another trusted adult, like a teacher, or a Childline counsellor about anything that happens online.


Some parents might also be worried about bullying and cyberbullying. Especially because falling out with friends and changing behaviours and moods are a natural part of growing up. But it can make it difficult to know if your child is being bullied or not.


Some of the signs of cyberbullying include:

  • a change in how they use devices, like their mobile or computer
  • becoming withdrawn or shy
  • changes in mood or signs of stress, anxiety or depression
  • not wanting to go school
  • not speaking to or seeing friends.

The NSPCC has helpful advice on bullying and cyberbullying for parents and carers.  


Childline also has lots of advice for young people on bullying and cyberbullying and bullying on social media, which we recommend sharing with them.


If your child comes across something upsetting online, they might want to report or block it. Use our reviews to show them how to do this on different apps, sites and games.

3. Set up devices safely

Going back to school is a common time to give kids new devices, particularly mobile phones, to help them keep in touch with family and friends. A new device for your child might well be a hand-me-down but it’s still important to set it up from scratch. Make sure you:


Set it up together

Take the time to set up the device with your child. Explore the different features and make sure you both know what they do and how to use them, especially any safety features.


Read the manual
A lot of us can forget to read the manual when we’re setting up a device but it’s always useful to follow the guidance given by the manufacturers. If you can’t find the original manual, product information can often be found online after a simple search.


Use parental controls
Setting up parental controls can help keep your kid safe on their new device. They might differ depending on the individual device, but you can often block inappropriate content, manage which apps can be downloaded and turn off location sharing.


4. Keep kids safe on conferencing apps

 Over lockdown, learning has increasingly moved out of the classroom and into the home, with kids using conferencing apps more and more to help them learn and stay connected. Even with your child returning to school, there might still be times when they need to use conferencing apps. We recommend reading our advice on keeping kids safe on conferencing apps, which has lots of helpful tips for parents and carers.


We also have specific advice on some of the most popular apps, including Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype, Google Hangouts and Google Meet. If your child is using any of these apps, read our reviews and check out our safety tips.