The NSPCC are the leading children’s charity fighting to end child abuse in the UK and Channel Islands. The primary aim of the NSPCC is to help children who have been abused rebuild their lives, protect those at risk, and find the best ways of preventing abuse from happening.
In her guest blog for Life Law NI, NSPCC Local Campaigns Manager in Northern Ireland Margaret Gallagher sets out ways in which parents can help protect their children from some of the risks they can be exposed to by being online
We always try to teach our children that it’s good to share, but online it’s different.
We know parents can feel confused by the internet – it’s constantly changing and can be hard to keep up with the latest apps and trends. It can be particularly tricky for parents of children aged around 8-12 years old as this is the age when children start doing more online, becoming independent and using different devices.
Parents in today’s technological world must be alert to the risks that their children can potentially be exposed to on the internet. Some of those risks include the following:-
- Inappropriate content, including pornography
- Friending or communicating with people they don’t know
- Cyber bullying
- Grooming and sexual abuse
- Sharing personal information
- Ignoring age restrictions
- Gambling or running up debts
How can I protect my child from risk on the internet?
Talk to your child
One of the easiest and most effective things parents can do is to talk to your child about the consequences of sharing information online. Help your child think about who sees what they share, and compare it to what they would be happy to share in real life. Use examples that are easy for them to understand: “You wouldn’t give your phone number to a stranger on the street, is a stranger online any different?”
Explain to your child how everything they share online – like usernames, images and comments – builds up a picture of who they are. Encourage your child to think about what they share, even with friends, as once it’s online it’s out of their control. You can talk about privacy settings and how they help your child control who can see what they share.
If you’re unsure about how to do any of this yourself, you can visit www.net-aware.org.uk for simple, no nonsense advice.
Inform and protect yourself
The online world can feel daunting, but there are lots of things you can do to take back control, like installing the latest filters and making sure you have a good level of security on your computers and other online devices in your home.
You can keep up to date and informed about all the latest social media or new apps that your child may have access to. NSPCC’s Net Aware will give you a run-down of all of the trending apps and social media tools that could be being accessed by your children.
We have also recently joined forces with O2, with the aim of getting every family in the UK to talk about and understand their child’s online world, just as they would their day at school. Parents can attend workshops to help them understand the internet as children do, and there’s also a free internet safety helpline 0808 8005002 if there’s a question about parental controls or concern about a social network.
Set a good example
You can also help your child by simply setting a good example online. It might not always feel like it, but your child does notice how you act and will follow your lead, so it’s important to show them what safe sharing looks like.
What can I do if my child has been exposed to harm online?
If things go wrong, it can be very worrying for you and your child but the NSPCC can help. Whether you child ‘overshared’ or someone else has shared some content with them that you’d rather they hadn’t seen, there will always be something you can do to make it better.
If your child sees something online that they think they shouldn’t have seen, let them know it’s not necessarily their fault – they shouldn’t feel guilty and they can always talk to you.
Your child can contact ChildLine and ask them to help with taking an illegal image off the internet by making a report to the Internet Watch Foundation on their behalf.
If you think your own child or any other is at immediate risk because of what they have shared or seen, you can contact the police or the NSPCC for advice on 0808 800 5000.