Staying safe online

Keeping your child safe online 

These days many young people have access to, or own the latest gadgets such as tablets, smart phones and games consoles, but they may not understand the risks. 

Parents and carers need to be aware that it is possible for people who are unknown to communicate with children and young people via the internet. On this page you will find some useful information to help keep your child safe online. 

Buying a mobile phone for a child or giving them your old mobile? 

Did you know most mobile phone providers offer free parental control service? 

Parental control services limit what content a child can access barring items unsuitable for under 18s. However, they may not always be automatically switched on. 

Check with your service provider that the parental control settings are switched on, and ask for them to be switched on if they are not. This is particularly important to do if the phone was used by an adult before. 

Parental controls  

Setting up parental controls will help you keep your child safe while they are online by: 

  • Blocking inappropriate content
  • Limiting in-app purchases 
  • Managing which apps children are allowed to download 

You can set up parental controls on individual devices and on your home WiFi. Most service providers will offer free parental control services and will help you to activate this if you contact them. You should also activate the privacy settings on each app that your child uses, as well as ensuring that location sharing is ‘off’ on their device.  

Understanding social media

Facebook is currently the largest social networking site in the world with over 2 billion active users. It allows users to connect and share with their family and friends online. Users create their own profile page which they can regularly update.

Facebook Messenger allows users to chat either one to one or in groups. 

Facebook rules

Snapchat is the fastest growing social media app with users sharing photos, videos, and text. The ‘snap’ is on screen for up to 10 seconds before disappearing, or there is an option to have no time limit. There’s also a feature called Snapchat Story that lets you share snaps in a sequence for up to 24 hours.

Snapchat rules

Report to Snapchat

Snapchat safety centre - for instructions on applying security settings

Instagram is a free photo and video sharing app available on Apple iOS, Android and Windows Phone. People can upload photos or videos to our service and share them with their followers or with a select group of friends. As with all the apps above, users can view, comment and like posts shared by their friends.

Instagram rules

Report to Instagram

Instagram safety centre - for instructions on applying security settings


YouTube is a free video sharing website that makes it easy to watch online videos. Users can also create and upload their own videos to share with others.  Every minute of every day, more than 35 hours of video is uploaded.

YouTube safety centre - for instructions on applying security settings.

Gaming – what’s appropriate for your child

When you buy a game for your child always check the PEGI certification, which is designed to help you know what’s suitable and what’s not for your child. 

All games released in the UK will have a PEGI rating on the packaging; 3,7, 12, 16 or 18 meaning that games rated as such should not be played by child who is younger than the age rated. You will see on the age rating that there are also pictograms to explain why the rating was awarded.  

Encourage your child to talk to you about the games they play and how they feel after playing them. Children are sometimes frightened by games but won’t tell anyone in case they have the game taken away. It is important whilst your child is growing up and distinguishing between reality and fantasy to talk to them about what they see during the game. 

Don’t forget if your child is playing games online to set the parental controls to give you extra piece of mind.   

If you’re worried about children playing video games on their own, then why not play them together. 

Please read the Children's Commissioner's publication on Gaming System.

Talking with your child about staying safe online

It’s important to explain especially to younger children, using language that they will understand, what is appropriate and what is not. It is good to make sure your child understands that if something they see upsets them or makes them worried, then they should always come to you. 

Always have regular open and honest chats about: 

  • What they are doing online and who they are talking to.
  • Remind them of the importance of not talking to or accepting friend requests from people they don’t know in real life.
  • Encourage them to keep all personal information such as passwords, phone numbers, friend, school address details private.
  • Remind them that people might not be who they say they are online.  It is very easy for people to set up accounts, with fake names, identities and photos, to make us all believe that they are someone they are not.
  • Warn them that the things they write and the photos they post online might be accessed by people other than their friends, if they don’t keep their accounts private.
  • Highlight the risks of meeting people in person that your child only knows online. Meeting people in real life, that children and young people only know from being online, can pose many risks and children and young people should be encouraged  to be open and honest with you or a trusted adult, if someone is asking to meet up with them in real life. (This can be very dangerous and children and young people should be encouraged to tell their parents or an adult they trust, if someone is asking to meet them.)
How to report an online concern

If something has happened to your child online you can report it to the National Crime Agency for Child Exploitation and Online Protection (sometimes called CEOP for short). 

CEOP helps keep children and young people safe from sexual abuse and grooming online, as well as their parents and carers. 

You should always report if your child is or has been in contact with someone who is: 

  • Chatting online with your child about sex 
  • Asking them to do sexual things on a webcam 
  • Asking to meet up if they’ve only met them online 
  • Requesting sexual pictures 
  • Forcing them into sexual activity 
  • Making them feel unsafe 

If you’re worried that your child is being groomed online or sexually exploited you should report your concerns via the CEOP website.

Find out more about keeping your child safe online

The PACE - Parents against child sexual exploitation website gives further information and advice for parents.

You can also find more advice for children and young people on the childline website and age-specific advice at 

Safer Schools

Watch this short video on the Safer Schools App