02 December 2020
Five tips from five online safety experts
It’s been five years since the NSPCC and O2 joined forces to help keep kids safe online. To celebrate we’ve spoken to five experts from across both organisations and got them to share their top online safety tips.
1) Agree some rules about how they spend their time online
I’ve been working in online safety for over 10 years advising parents and carers how kids can explore the online world safely. There are lots of benefits to spending time online, it allows kids to keep in touch with friends, play games and learn about new and exciting topics. But it’s important to set boundaries with your child about how and when they can spend time online.
Sit down with your child and agree some rules around how long they can spend on certain devices and when they can do certain activities such as talk to friends or play games. For example, you might agree with them they can video call with friends but only if you’re in the room. Or you might let them play games in the main family room at the weekends with their school friends.
Involving your child is in this process will encourage them to think about how they spend time online and help them develop good online habits in the future.
Different rules will work for different families but often work best when agreed together as a family. That way your child can share things like how long each game lasts which is helpful to know when agreeing time limits. It can help to write down any new rules together as a family so you can come back to them later. You can use our family agreement to get you started.
2) Set up parental controls on your child’s device
Over the last five years of the partnership we’ve helped thousands of parents set up new devices for their kids. And our most important piece of advice…make sure to set up parental controls on your child’s device.
Before you give your child a new piece of tech, you should always explore the parental controls and safety settings available first. Most devices will have these available to help you manage what your child does online, control in-app purchases and help stop your child from seeing content they might find upsetting.
All mobile providers offer free parental controls but these aren’t always switched on so make sure to let your network provider know if the device is for an under 18.
Don’t forget to explore the parental controls available on your child’s games console. Nintendo Switch, Playstation and Xbox have information and advice about how parents can keep their kids safe and manage how long they spend gaming.
3) Help them master the basics
We always tell parents and carers how important it is that they understand how their child spends their time online so they can teach them basic online skills to help keep them safer, like reporting and blocking.
Sitting down with your child and exploring their favourite app or game can be a great way to learn more about what they like to do online. It also gives you an opportunity to discuss some of the things they can do to keep safe. We would recommend:
• Showing your child how to report and block so they know how to get rid of any unwanted messages or comments
• Showing them how to decline friend requests from people they don’t know
• Setting any accounts to private so their posts can only be seen by their followers
• Helping them choose their username and profile picture to make sure it’s appropriate
4) Look out for signs they might need some support
Working at the NSPCC Helpline we regularly offer advice to parents about online issues affecting young people. Spending time online is a normal part of growing up and it can bring kids lots of different benefits but sometimes a child might have a negative experience that they find hard to talk about.
Parents and carers should look out for signs their child might have had a negative experience online. Some of them might include:
- Being withdrawn or more quiet than usual
- The child getting angry when you try to go near their device
- Mood swings
- issues with sleeping and their mental health
If you have a concern about a child or need advice you should call and speak to one of our advisors. We will be able to give you further support and guidance about what to do next. You can call us on 0808 800 5000, email us, or submit an online form.
You can call us Monday to Friday 8am – 10pm or 9am – 6pm at the weekends. It's free and you don't have to say who you are.
5) Find the right time to talk about online safety
We know from our work with young people how important it is that kids have a safe space where they can talk about their concerns without judgement.
It’s important for parents and carers to start talking about online safety from a young age. This will help normalise the conversation around different topics that can affect young people online and encourage them to come to you if they ever need support or advice about something that’s happened.
Kids are more likely to open-up in an environment where they don’t feel pressured so try and talk to your child when you’re doing another activity like walking the dog or driving to school. When we’re talking to young people on Childline we always try to ask them open-ended questions. This gives them more freedom to choose what they’re going to share and might encourage them to be more open with you.
Our most important piece of advice is to listen to your child and never interrupt when they’re talking. Whatever activities your child likes to do online are going to be important to them so always try be enthusiastic even if you have concerns. If they’ve come to you with a problem tell them that they have done the right thing in talking to you and reassure them that you’ll do all you can to support them.
And remember don’t be disheartened if your child doesn’t open-up the way you wanted them too straight away. Just try again another day!