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Online safety

The web offers a world of opportunities for children to learn, grow and have fun. But not everything online is suitable for them.

Around one in seven 8-11s say they dislike seeing things online that are too old for them or that make them feel sad, frightened or embarrassed.

In this section, you’ll find six categories of tips relating to online safety, and how you can help to protect your children.

Please select an option on the left

Inappropriate content

Find out about Share Aware - the NSPCC’s new advice on how to keep your child safe on their favourite online sites.

Talk to your child about what they’re up to online. Find out what sites they visit and what they love about them. If they know you understand they’re more likely to come to you if they have any problems. Think U Know

There are a number of search engines designed specifically for children – such as Yahoo! Kids, Ask Kids, KidsClick or AOL Kids – whose results have been vetted as suitable for children. BBC WebWise

Some search engines – including Google, Yahoo and Bing – also offer ‘safe search’ settings which enable you to filter out the sites you don’t want your children to see.

‘Friendly WiFi’ is designed to help keep children and young people safe when accessing WiFi in public places. Wherever the ‘Friendly WiFi’ logo is displayed you can be assured that the WiFi service has been verified and the correct filters are in place to block pornography and child abuse images. The scheme is supported by Government, the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) and the UK’s main WiFi providers. 

Talk to your child and reassure them that they can always come to you if something upsets or worries them online. Childnet

Talk to your children so they understand how search engines work and don’t stumble across unsuitable content. They’ll also be better able to find the information they need quickly and efficiently.Ofcom Guide

If you do catch them on a site that you think is unsuitable, don't assume that they made the choice to go there. Kidscape

If your child is listening to music and watching music videos online, the BPI and its member record labels have developed an updated Parental Advisory Scheme. It’s a labelling system to help parents identify songs and music videos that might be inappropriate for children.

Reporting inappropriate and illegal content

If your child has experienced sexual contact while online, offensive chat which has made them uncomfortable, or you think someone is trying to meet up with them, you can report this directly to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre.

You can report fraud or online scams or viruses to Action Fraud – the UK’s national fraud reporting centre.

If you think content might be illegal, like sexual images of children and young people, you can report it directly to an organisation called the Internet Watch Foundation. It’s their job to make sure that things like this are taken off the internet.

Parental controls

Parental controls help you manage what your children can view on the web. There are a number of options available. You could start by reading ParentPort’s Parental Controls Guide.

For advice on how to set up parental controls on different computer systems and from different internet service providers, please see the following links:

BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media have produced video guides to help you to download and set-up the parental controls they offer.

You can watch the BT, Sky and Virgin Media videos below. To watch TalkTalk’s video, click the following link and it will open in a new window.

Talk Talk parental controls


Privacy and security

Are you streetwise online? Visit for easy tips helping you, your family and your business stay safe online.

Cyber Streetwise is a cross-government campaign led by the Home Office, funded through the National Cyber Security Programme in the Cabinet Office, working closely with BIS and delivered in partnership with the private and voluntary sectors. 

Make sure your child understands what personal information they should protect. A good way to think about this is what details would you be happy to reveal about yourself on a poster in your high street. How could a stranger use that information? It’s surprising how much can be found out about a person by gathering details from lots of different sites. BBC Web Wise

Remind them that what goes online stays online. Explain that any comments or photos they post now could be seen by their teachers, complete strangers, or even university admissions tutors or future employers. Vodafone

Explain that nothing online is really private - no matter what kids think, privacy settings aren't infallible. Yahoo

Consider setting up a family e-mail account which can be used specifically to register for websites, competitions and online forms. Get Safe Online

Make sure your child understands that accepting emails, instant messages, or opening files, pictures or texts from people you don’t know or trust can lead to problems – they may contain viruses or nasty messages. Ofcom Guide

If your child uses online chat services, ask them if they know how to block someone who they don’t want to talk to. If they don’t, help them to learn how to use the blocking feature. Chat Danger

The Information Commissioner’s Office has useful online information on how your child can protect their personal information. Encourage your child to read it so they can take steps to stay in control of their personal information.

Online shopping

Talk to your child about safe online shopping and supervise purchases with younger children – explain that criminals can set up online shops that are only there to steal money, so check out the website carefully, be careful when disclosing any personal or payment information and ensure that the site is using a secure payment method.

Make sure they always use a strong and unique password for all their online accounts – a combination of letters, numbers and symbols.

Explain that they should never follow links to shopping or banking sites – always type the address straight into the address bar.

Ensure they look for the padlock symbol on payment pages – it will be in the window frame of the browser. Only 25% of 12-15 year-olds do this when visiting new sites, according to Ofcom research.

Take care to limit your child’s access to credit card and bank information. Similarly, ensure they cannot gain access to an online shop or other website where your details are stored.

Check bank and card transactions regularly for unexpected transactions.

For comprehensive tips on shopping safely online, check out Get Safe Online.


Look out for changes in your child. These could include: becoming secretive about work on computer, keeping their mobile on silent, staying in their bedroom, changes in relationships with friends, anxious, moody, withdrawn and quiet, seems unhappy but refuses to say why, complaining of headaches, stomach aches or other illnesses, sleeping difficulties, deterioration in their work. Beyond Bullying

Talk to your child about cyber-bullying. Explain that if they think they're being bullied online, they should share this information with you, a teacher, or another adult they trust. It's also important to encourage children to communicate with other people online in the same way they would face-to-face. Ask your child to treat other people the way they would prefer to be treated. Microsoft Family Safety

Explain that replying to bullying messages, particularly in anger, is just what the bully wants. By not replying the bully may think that they did not receive the message, or that they weren't bothered by it. Childnet

Cyber-bullying can be extremely upsetting and scary but it can be stopped, your child can find out more about how to do this on the ChildLine website. It’s important to encourage them to save any texts, emails, messages or online comments along with the time and date they received them. This information will be very useful when reporting the bullying but it’s important your child knows not to reply to any messages as this can make the bullying worse.