Being social online: what parents and carers need to know

Being social online: what parents and carers need to know

Whether playing games, sharing pics or live streaming, children love to use their time online to have fun, play and socialise. Here’s our guide on how you can support your child to be safer whilst enjoying online activities.

Parents text content

Children love going online for lots of reasons – chatting with friends, learning new things, having fun. Whatever your child enjoys doing online, you can help them stay safer by focusing on 3 key areas:

  1. Viewing
  2. Sharing
  3. Chatting and friending


Technology and the internet provide lots of opportunities for children to view content, but it is important to remember it’s a public and open place, one where anybody can post and share things. Unfortunately, it can be easy for children to come across inappropriate, sexual or violent content online.

Use privacy and security settings

Most apps, sites and games (but not all) include privacy and security settings that allow you to control what content can be seen. Tools such as parental controls and filters can also help you to manage younger children’s online activities and what they are exposed to.

Consider the age ratings

It’s also a good idea to look up the age ratings or minimum age of use. Younger children are more likely to come across inappropriate content if they are using apps, sites and games designed for older children, or without a PEGI rating. If watching videos online is something your child loves to do, read our guide to viewing videos online for more advice.

Have regular ongoing conversations

Remember, the most important thing you can do is to have open and ongoing conversations with your child about what they see online. Make sure they know what to do and encourage them to talk to an adult if they see anything online that upsets them.

See our articles 'I'm worried my primary aged child might see something inappropriate online'  or Teens and the sexual content on social media for more information and advice.

Help your child know how to report and get help

It’s important that your child always know where to go if they come across something that worries them or makes them feel uncomfortable online. Make sure they know that you would never blame them for anything that might happen online.

Most apps, sites and games will have a reporting system. So, if someone’s shared an embarrassing picture or someone  is being mean, they can report this by visiting their ‘safety’ pages.

Make sure they know that they can always report to CEOP if they are worried about grooming or sexual abuse online, and don’t feel able to tell a trusted adult.

If they are worried about something else, they can call a helpline, like Childline.

Parents text content


Sharing, especially pictures and videos, can be fun and creative. It helps children to express themselves and can also be a good way to connect with friends and family. But it’s easy to share things online that we wouldn’t face-to-face, so it’s important to talk to your child about safe sharing.

Talk about what’s OK to share

Talk about the type of things that are OK to share and things which you wouldn’t want them to share, as well as who it is OK to share with.  Children should always be advised not share personal information online, and never feel pressured to do something online that they don’t want to do.

Children, particularly younger children, should be encouraged to seek permission whenever they share images or videos online, especially if they are sharing a photo with other people in it. Watch our Jessie and Friend’s films for 4 to 7 year olds for a fun way to introduce the topic.

With older children it’s also important to talk about sex, relationships and image sharing.

Use the privacy settings

Together, look at the privacy settings for the apps, sites and games they use and talk about how they can help them stay in control of what they share.

Help and support your child

Read our article if you are worried your child has shared too much online so you know what to do, if your child needs help. And don’t forget to be a great role model when sharing pictures of your child online,

Chatting and friending

No matter how young your child is, if they are using a device that has access to the internet, it’s important to talk to them about chatting and friending online.

Talk about friendships

With younger children, talk about who they chat with and what it means to be a good friend online. How they would deal with disagreements or what they would do if one of their friends was mean to them? Remind them that they should treat their friends online as they would offline and vice versa.

Whatever their age, talk about what a healthy relationship looks like, including the importance of trust and consent. Remind them of their right to feel respected, happy and safe in all of their relationships. They should never feel scared, controlled or forced in to doing things that they don’t want to do.

Encourage safer chat

Our guide to in-game chat will help you understand the risks and actions you can take to encourage safer chat. Our guide to live-streaming will help you understand what makes live streaming different and how you can make this a positive experience for your child.

Support them with social media

With older children, you can help them make those first steps into social media a positive experience. Read our tips on how to do this.