Child hands on keyboard

How can children be safe online?

Most children today use the internet - at home, at school and when they're out and about. But how can you be sure that they are surfing safely?

As we all know, computers can be great tools for kids, but there are dangers attached to using the internet.

Be aware

Many parents have no idea what their children are viewing on the internet. They may be unaware that their child has encountered violent or sexual content or is engaged in inappropriate conversation with strangers.

By taking an active role in supervising how your child uses the internet, you can help to ensure that they continue to have fun on the net and find the information they are looking for, while keeping safe from some of the medium’s dangers.

Steps to safe surfing for young people

Follow these steps to ensure your child is safe online:

  • Make sure you have a secure internet connection.
  • Write down a list of rules and position it in a place close to the computer where they can be easily read. Talk through the rules with your child so they understand why they're there. 
  • Don't site computers in places where it is difficult to monitor what your child is viewing. 
  • Show an interest in what they're accessing/doing online. If possible get to know your child's online friends.
  • Reinforce the message about safety considerations to your children when they are chatting with people online. 
  • Online webcam extortion is serious issue which affects all people – young and old.  Find out how to protect your child and report webcam extortion in our general Keep Safe Online advice.
  • Urge them not to give out their home address, e-mail address or personal information (school, home town, areas where they play or meet with friends) to people they meet on the internet. 
  • Make sure your child knows not to arrange to meet someone they have met over the internet without adult supervision taking place in the first instance. 
  • Make sure your child is aware that they shouldn’t open e-mail attachments from senders that they do not know or addresses they are unfamiliar with.
  • Encourage your child to tell you about anything they think is inappropriate and reassure them it is not their fault. Make sure they know you will support them.
  • If they report anything to you, contact the police by dialling 101. You can also report abuse online to the Virtual Global Taskforce and report illegal images to the Internet Watch Foundation (see below).

Your child and social networking

Sites like Twitter and Facebook are part of an internet phenomenon known as ‘social networking’. They can be great fun to use and are an important part of many people’s social lives, but, like any internet tool, they can be used for harmful or criminal purposes.

Find out more information about social networking and how people of all ages can keep safe in our Keep Safe Online advice.

If your child has a Facebook page, suggest they download the 'ClickCeop' button which will allow them to access advice and guidance and report concerns directly to The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP). 

Help them to help themselves

Of course you may not always be able to supervise how your child uses the internet, especially if they access the net from outside the home or using mobile technology. You should not assume you child is safe online just because they use it safely at home.

If your child has a Facebook page, suggest they download the 'ClickCeop' button which will allow them to access advice and guidance and report concerns directly to The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP). Many other social networking sites also have links to CEOP.

What if my child or I find illegal images on the web?

The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) operates the UK internet hotline for reporting criminal online content.  

The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) is the UK internet Hotline for anyone to report online child sexual abuse imagery and non-photographic child sexual abuse images anonymously. 

IWF works internationally to make the internet safer. They help victims of child sexual abuse worldwide by identifying and removing online images and videos of their abuse. 

Don’t ignore it, report it!

Why should I report it?

If you stumble across such images accidentally you should report them to the IWF. Reports from the public help the IWF to remove the images from the internet and to support the investigative processes which could bring those responsible to justice.

Child sexual abuse images record the real abuse of a child and your reports to the IWF might help the authorities to trace and rescue a young victim from further exploitation.

How do I report it?

Go to the IWF website and complete the step-by-step form. The form is easy to navigate and reports can be submitted anonymously.

Where can I find out more about keeping my child safe online?

The UK government has launched a website to give additional advice to children about chatting safely on the Internet. Your child can access this site by visiting the Thinkuknow website.

The Scottish Government has also launched an action plan on child internet safety. Find out more on the Scottish Government website.

Respectme is Scotland’s anti-bullying service, which is funded by the Scottish Government and managed by SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health) in partnership with LGBT Youth Scotland. 

It works with all adults involved in the lives of children and young people to give them the practical skills and confidence to deal with bullied children and those who bully others. Visit the respectme website for more information.