As a parent or carer, you may worry about whether your teenager is safe online. It can help to understand what the risks are, and how to support your child.
Being informed may make it easier to talk to your child, too.
Online spaces can be a positive thing. But they can also come with risks. Understanding where the dangers might be can help you educate your child.
The risks can be broken into three areas:
- Content: This may be content that is inappropriate or unreliable. It could include content that is sexual, violent, biased or extreme in opinion.
- Conduct: They may put themselves at risk through their own behaviour. This could include sharing too much information.
- Contact: This includes bullying, harassment, grooming, or pressure to behave a certain way.
Before you speak to your child, think about your attitude to your child spending time online. Do you complain about them spending time online, or dismiss social media? If your child thinks you have a negative attitude, conversations may feel more confrontational.
Take some time to think about how you spend time online and why the space could be important to your child too. Consider both the positives and negatives.
Try starting an honest conversation with them. It might not feel like an easy topic. Your child may be secretive or defensive when you approach the subject. Talk about the things you both enjoy and share your favourite sites with each other. Let them know that they can come to you with any worries, and you will help them work out what to do.
Help your teen stay safe
- Support your child to learn how they can look after themselves. Try to create a positive environment.
- Instead of just making rules, talk with your teenager about online safety. Make sure they feel involved in decisions and know that you’re there to chat if they’re worried.
- Empower them with information. Make sure they know how to block and report someone. Let them know what behaviours are unacceptable or illegal.
- Find ways to help build their resilience and self-esteem. This will put them in a good position to handle difficult situations.
- Encourage your child to talk to their friends about what they encounter online. They may not always come to you for help but they’ll be able to ask someone, and upskill each other.
- Allow them some room to experiment. Make sure they can access sites and games you’ve agreed on, as long as they know what to do if there is an issue.
- Talk to them about healthy relationships and consent, and how to say “no”. This is as important online as it is offline.
- Try doing the ‘Billboard Test’ with your child. Ask them to imagine that everything they put onto social media and chats shows up on a billboard. This includes pictures, comments and personal information. How would they feel? Would they change what they post?
- Put some restrictions in place to protect them. For example, install software to filter out harmful content.
Think about how you can support your child
Ask some questions to understand if your child might need extra support.
- Do you think your child could be at risk? Think about what your child is using the internet for and how much they know about staying safe.
- What can you do to help them know what the risks are? Learn what you can so you’re able to share your knowledge.
- What information do you need as a parent to support your teenager?
Further advice and support:
Contact the school if you have any concerns about your, or another, child.