Online Safety at Home: How to keep your children safe online

With all the different means of accessing the internet, we know children and young people may spend more time online, especially as a result of the pandemic and lockdowns.  The internet is an amazing resource and increasingly younger children are using it. It enables children and young people to connect, communicate, learn and be creative in a number of different ways on a range of devices.  However the internet is always changing and being able to keep up to date with your children’s use of technology can be a challenge.  You may sometimes feel that your children have better technical skills than you do, however children and young people still need advice and protection when it comes to managing their lives online.

Thinkuknow have outlined steps you can take to keep your child safe online:

Parental controls: Parental controls have been designed to help you manage your child’s online activities. There are various types, some of which are free but others which can be bought. However, nothing is totally fool proof so they shouldn’t replace the need for you to support and advise your child using the internet. For more information and step by step instructions on setting up parental controls, visit: Parental Controls & Privacy Settings Guides – Internet Matters

Supervise their online activity:  Keep the devices your child uses in communal areas of the house such as the living room or kitchen, where an adult is able to supervise. Primary-age children should not access the internet in private spaces alone, such as in a bedroom or bathroom.

Explore together and chat little and often:  Ask your child to show you their favourite apps, games and sites and encourage them to teach you how to use these. Ask them if anything ever worries them online. Make sure they know they won’t be in trouble and can get help by talking to you or another adult they trust if anything happens online that makes them feel worried, sad or scared.

Make sure they know where to go for support if they are worried: Remind your child they can always speak to you or an adult they trust if anything happens online that makes them feel worried or upset. Please visit How to get help

Help your child identify trusted adults who can help them if they are worried: This includes you and other adults at home, as well as adults from wider family, school or other support services who they are able to contact at this time. Encourage them to draw a picture or write a list of their trusted adults.

Talk about how their online actions affect others: If your child is engaging with others online, remind them to consider how someone else might feel before they post or share something. If they are considering sharing a photo/video of somebody else, they should always ask permission first.

Use ‘SafeSearch’:  Most web search engines will have a ‘SafeSearch’ function, which will allow you to limit the content your child can access whilst online. Look out for the ‘Settings’ button on your web browser homepage, which is often shaped like a small cog.   For more information go to SafeSearchKids. For a child friendly search engine, have a look at Swiggle

Take a look at Thinkuknow:

Thinkuknow is the national online safety education programme from the National Crime Agency. Thinkuknow offers learning activities, advice and support for children and young people aged 4-18 and their families. The for 4s to 7s will help you start a conversation about online safety and for 8s to 10s, there’s the Play Like Share animations.  Visit thinkuknow for further information on keeping your child safe online.

Specific information:

Watching Videos: From animals doing funny things, to slime-making and game-tutorials, the internet has lots of fun videos for children to enjoy. But the amount and availability of content online means that children may see something inappropriate.

Because the internet is a public and open space where anyone can post and share content, it does mean your child may see something that is intended for adults. Find out what to do if you’re worried your child might see something inappropriate online or what to do if they already have.

Children love to watch videos and YouTube is always a firm favourite! But sometimes children can be exposed to videos that are not meant for them. YouTube Kids is a safer way for children to explore their interests. You can find more information about this on

Remember, primary-age children should be supervised at all times when online.

Sharing information, pictures and videos: Although restrictions have eased, it’s still not always easy to stay connected with our friends and family, especially abroad, so you may be sharing more images and videos of our children online via social media. But before you do, there are some important things to consider.

Read sharing pictures of your children for info on how to protect your younger, or older child whilst staying social.

Using devices like phones and tablets to share pictures and videos can be a great way for children to have fun and stay in touch with friends and family. It’s really important your child knows what’s ok to share online and what they should check with you first.  Read younger children sharing pictures or videos online for more information on the risks and how to support safer sharing.

Personal information is any information that can be used to identify your child. Sharing personal information online is easy and sometimes children, like adults, might share more online than they would offline, which can be risky.  Read your child’s personal information and how to protect it online for information and advice.

Do check your child’s and your family’s digital footprint regularly.  Google yourselves to see what information is out there on the web about you and your family: Is it appropriate?  Is it out of date?  Is there too much information?  It is a good idea to do this every six to eight weeks.

Online Gaming: Online games are social activities, and most have features that allow children to chat with others whilst they play.   For information about the positives of gaming, the risks of in-game chat and measures you can take to help protect them, watch this short video: In-game chat: a guide for parents and carers.

The PEGI (Pan European Game Information) rating system can be a useful tool to help you decide what online games are appropriate for your child.  For more information on the PEGI system and other factors to consider before deciding what’s suitable, read Gaming: what’s appropriate for your child

Gaming is popular with both children and adults and has helped to cure that lockdown boredom! If your child is gaming, you may have some questions about how to keep them safer. If so, check out – gaming: what parents need to know.

Things to think about:

  • What content are your children viewing?
  • What language is being used in the game?
  • What are the age ratings on the games and why?
  • Why does your child want to play the game? – Ask

For a good idea on how a game works or how people react to the games, watch YouTubers playing the games – yes, these videos exist!

For a guide on the apps, sites and games your child might enjoy, visit: Net Aware.

Chatting, being kind and making friends online: Primary-age children may not have previously had much experience with video chatting apps such as zoom, FaceTime and Skype, but may well be using them now for education or to keep in touch with family and friends. To make sure your child has a positive experience video chatting online, read this guide for parents and carers.

The internet has many positive opportunities for children to learn and play, but it can also be used in negative and unkind ways.  It’s really important to speak to your child about being kind online, and how they can get help if they see or hear anything that makes them feel worried, scared or sad.

Use these conversation starters to help your child understand the importance of being kind online.

The term ‘online friend’ can be used to describe people you only know through the internet, or those that you also know offline. Some children make friends online by meeting new people through online platforms such as gaming sites.  To help children have positive online friendships, read this handy guide.

Other Resources:

The Vodaphone Digital Family Pledge is a great activity to do as a family to help set some family house rules on how you use tech and behave online. It is a good tool to stimulate discussion on the following areas: quality screen time, being kind online, healthy social media, happy gaming.

Guides to apps, games and social media site: Netaware

Reviews of films, TV programmes, books, apps and games

Google Family Link to support parental controls

Useful websites:

Files to Download