18 May 2021

What to do if your child sees something inappropriate online

Article girl on laptop exp 05.26

It’s not always easy to stop your child from seeing something inappropriate online. Innocent searches can sometimes lead to not so innocent results. Or children might look for things because they are curious.

If your child has seen inappropriate content online follow these tips.

Talk to your child about what they’ve seen

If your child sees something online that upsets or confuses them, they might have questions you can answer.

Reassure them that they’ve done the right thing by coming to you and ask them to tell you how they came across it. This will give you an opportunity to discuss what is, and isn’t appropriate for their age, and to discuss some of the apps, sites and games they can use. It will also help you to know how to prevent them seeing it again by using the right parental controls e.g. on the service, device or ISP (see more tips below).

It’s also a good opportunity to review apps, sites and games they’re using and to discuss what is, and isn’t, appropriate for their age. You could use our activity to help get to know what your child is doing online.

At the end of the conversation let them know they can always come to you, another trusted adult or Childline about something they’re concerned about.

Set up or review parental controls

Parental controls can be set up on the internet service provider (ISP) and the device, as well as on the app, site or game that your child is accessing. You should contact your ISP and ask them to enable parental controls on your network.

Speak to your mobile provider ask them to enable parental controls on your child’s device.

Most devices also have parental controls that can help you manage how your child spends time online.  Parental controls can help you to block types of content or sites, set watershed times and give overall content blocking ratings.  For example, you can set them to high if you have young children, but as they get older you might change it to medium or low.

Remember to review the settings in place regularly to ensure that they are still working as you need them to for your family.

If you need some help setting up parental controls on a device you can call into an O2 store (even if you aren’t an O2 customer) to speak to an O2 Guru.   You might also want to check out our advice article How to use parental controls on gaming devices for more information. 

Report the content

Make sure you child knows how to report and block on their favourite app, site or game in case they come across something upsetting. If you’re unsure how to do this use our reviews to help.

If you’ve seen something worrying or illegal you should report this to CEOP.

Talk to them about Childline

Encourage your child to look at the Childline website, which has a range of great advice articles:

Childline’s Calm zone is also packed with tools and activities to help your child de-stress and discover news techniques that can support them when they’re feeling down. Young people can also talk about their worries with others on the Childline message boards.  

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