The internet has changed all of our lives, particularly our children’s. As a parent you’ll probably know how important the internet is to children and young people. They use it to learn, play, socialise and express themselves in all types of creative ways. This may be through sharing photos and videos, blogging, gaming, or even developing their own apps. It is a place of amazing opportunities.
For parents and carers this opens up a whole new world of things to be aware of. For many of us, this can all be a bit too much. The technology children use in their daily lives can seem daunting. You might worry about the risks they can face online, such as bullying, contact from strangers, as well as the possibility of access to inappropriate or illegal content.
To help them stay safe, here are a few tips:
- Talk to your child about what they’re up to online. Be a part of their online life; involve the whole family and show an interest. Find out what sites they visit and what they love about them, if they know you understand they are more likely to come to you if they have any problems.
- Watch Thinkuknow films and cartoons with your child. The Thinkuknow site has films, games and advice for children from five all the way to 16.
- Encourage your child to go online and explore!
- There is a wealth of age-appropriate sites online for your children. Encourage them to use sites which are fun, educational and that will help them to develop online skills.
- Keep up-to-date with your child’s development online. Children grow up fast and they will be growing in confidence and learning new skills daily. It’s important that as your child learns more, so do you.
- Set boundaries in the online world just as you would in the real world. Think about what they might see, what they share, who they talk to and how long they spend online. It is important to discuss boundaries at a young age to develop the tools and skills children need to enjoy their time online.
- Keep all equipment that connects to the internet in a family space. For children of this age, it is important to keep internet use in family areas so you can see the sites your child is using and be there for them if they stumble across something they don’t want to see.
- Know what connects to the internet and how. Nowadays even the TV connects to the internet. Make sure you’re aware of which devices that your child uses connect to the internet, such as their phone or games console. Also, find out how they are accessing the internet – is it your connection, or a neighbour’s wifi? This will affect whether the safety setting you set are being applied.
- Use parental controls on devices that link to the internet, such as the TV, laptops, computers, games consoles and mobile phones. Parental controls are not just about locking and blocking, they are a tool to help you set appropriate boundaries as your child grows and develops. They are not the answer to your child’s online safety, but they are a good start and they are not as difficult to install as you might think. Service providers are working hard to make them simple, effective and user friendly. Find your service provider and learn how to set your controls
What should I do if I am worried that a child is being groomed online or sexually exploited? You should report your concerns to CEOP. However if you are concerned that your child is in immediate danger, call 999.
CEOP is a command of the National Crime Agency and can investigate what is happening – with the assurance that the safety and wellbeing of your child is paramount at all times.
It is not always easy to spot the signs of online grooming and sexual exploitation so if you have any concern at all about someone your child is in contact with, you should get in touch.
You should always report if your child is or has been in contact with someone who is:
- Chatting online to your child about sex
- Asking them to do sexual things on webcam
- Asking to meet up if they’ve only met them online
- Requesting sexual pictures
- Forcing them into sexual activity
- Making them feel unsafe
How do I make a report?
You can make a report to CEOP using the CEOP Safety Centre.
You will need to complete an online form which will ask you for your contact details and information about what has happened. It will ask:
- What happened?
- Who did it happen to?
- What do you know about the suspect involved?
You should complete the form as fully as you can but don’t worry if you don’t have all of the details.
Do I have to give my name?
When completing a CEOP report you are reporting suspicions of crime to law enforcement so we can’t receive anonymous reports.
If you want to discuss your concerns with someone first then call the NSPCC Helpline on 0800 800 5000.
Who receives the report and what happens next?
All of the reports are first reviewed by child protection social workers. They will:
- Read the report and assess the risk to your child
- Look to make contact with you to discuss next steps
- Give safeguarding advice and support
Support your child
It is important to remember that it can be difficult for a child to come forward and tell an adult what has happened to them – they are often embarrassed, fear adults won’t understand , scared they will get into trouble or that adults will over react. Ensure you tell your child that whatever has happened, it is not their fault and you are on their side.
Finding out your child has been sexually abused can be a traumatic experience. You may need additional support to come to terms with what has happened to your child.
School policies and guidelines can be found below: