I’m worried my child might see something inappropriate online

I’m worried my child might see something inappropriate online

There's no watershed, 'top shelf' or ID required online but that doesn't mean you can't protect your child from adult content. Find out how to help them navigate the web safely.

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Things they might see

The internet is a public and open place, one where anybody can post and share content. This is part of the fun but it does mean that your child might see something that is intended for adults which might confuse or upset them.

What is inappropriate?

Inappropriate can mean different things to different people and can range from swear words to sexual images or videos. Every household will have different ideas, and what’s inappropriate for your child will also change as they grow and develop.

Inappropriate content includes any pictures, videos, messages or posts that worry, scare or upsets your child, or encourages them to engage in dangerous or illegal behaviour.

Here are some examples:

  • Violence. This is often content intended for adults, including graphic gaming content, real-life news stories or scenes which show images of cruelty to other people or animals.

  • Sexual content. This includes adult nudity and sexual activity, from programmes or videos made for adults, pornography, sexual content in games or sexual chat or messages.

  • Self-harm or suicide. This can include distressing material about depression and suicide, or images that show self-harm or encourage children to harm themselves.

Illegal content

Some content they see can also be against the law. For example:

  • Nude or semi-nude images. This refers to nude or semi-nude images of children (under 18).
  • Content which promotes terrorism or extremism. Some extreme or terrorist groups spread online content designed to radicalise vulnerable people, like children and young people.
  • Online harassment.This is when someone behaves in a way intended to cause distress or alarm to another person and happens on more than one occasion. For example, offensive name calling, purposeful embarrassment, physical threats, stalking and sexual harassment.

Having the conversation – 3 things to talk about before they go online

No matter how young your child is, if they are using the internet you will need to have a conversation with them about ‘things they might see’ online.

1. What they might see

It is important to explain, especially to younger children, what is meant by ‘inappropriate’ using language they will understand. For example, pictures or videos meant for adults, or something that makes them feel worried, scared or sad. Help them understand that sometimes they may come across things that they’d prefer not to see, or that you would prefer they didn’t see.

2. Safe searching

You can’t always be there when your child is using internet enabled devices - even though it is advisable as much as possible when your child is at primary age. Talk to them about what they might see if they were to type the wrong words or actively look for content on a search engine like Google.

Remember, no matter what you've told them, as we all were as children, your child will be curious as they grow.  They might search for content they are too embarrassed to talk to you about, don’t understand or think they'll find funny.

3. What to do if they see something they didn’t want to

Children often tell us that a reason they don’t tell a parent or carer when something goes wrong or upsets them online is because they are worried the adult will over react and take their technology away from them. So it is important that your child knows that they can come to you if something online confuses or upsets them.

Make sure they know that whatever they have seen, if it's upset them or raised questions that they can always come to you. Let them know that you that you would never blame them for anything that might happen online.

Give them some practical steps they can take if they see something they don’t like, for example:

  • ● turn the screen off and ask a trusted adult for help.

  • ● if it pops up when watching a video, close it down.

  • ● if they see upsetting content on social media, block the user it came from, and report them on the platform they are using.

  • ● if what they have seen makes them feel worried or unhappy - don’t send it on to others.

Practical steps to help limit inappropriate content

As well as having the all-important conversation, there are some practical things you can do to limit what they see:

Check the age requirements. Most online platforms, including video streaming services, games, apps, video platforms and social networks have age ratings. Younger children are more likely to come across inappropriate content if they are using apps, websites or services before reaching the minimum age requirements.

Set Parental Controls. Most apps, sites, games and services have parental controls and filters to help you manage the content your child may see. Some services also let you set up child accounts, so content can be automatically filtered, or you can choose what content your child can view.Read more about setting up parental controls.


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