Internet and online safety advice from Childline

by My Kent Family reporter

In her first column of the new year, Childline services manager Wendy Robinson wants to remind families about the importance of internet safety:

While Christmas and all the celebrations may seem a world away, the dust won’t yet have settled on the new tablets, games consoles and smart phones that children will have received under the tree.

The internet is a fantastic place for children and young people to socialise, explore their interests, and learn, but every parent should be aware of the risks.

Did the kids get new tables for Christmas?
Did the kids get new tables for Christmas?

We know children are becoming more concerned about online safety from the increasing number of calls to Childline. We have seen a growing number of cases where children and young people have been targeted by adults through popular apps and social media platforms.

Last year, 2016/17, Childline volunteers delivered more than 12,000 counselling sessions about online safety and abuse and there was a 20 per cent rise in the number of page views to advice about sexting.

While online abuse may be a top concern for parents, the internet can also present other risks such as cyberbullying, feeling unhappy about body image and being exposed to adult or inappropriate content when gaming.

One 11-year-old girl told Childline counsellors: “I was playing an online game when someone I didn’t know started sending me rude messages saying they wanted to have sex with me. The things they said were horrible and disgusting and I made me feel scared.

"I blocked them but it was really scary and I was worried that someone I didn’t know could message me like that.”

Parents are encouraged to talk to their children about their online activity
Parents are encouraged to talk to their children about their online activity

It is incredibly important that parents talk to their children about being safe online and spotting the signs of inappropriate behaviour or content. Parents and children should:

• Explore sites and apps together

• Talk about things they might see online which make them feel uncomfortable

• Talk about what is, and is not, ok to share online

• Reassure them that you won't overreact – you're just looking out for them

To help parents explore the sites, apps and games their child uses the NSPCC and O2 have created Net Aware, which looks at the safety of the sites children use most, as well as giving guidance on age suitability.

Here, parents and young people can find out how to set privacy settings and how to block or report content online. The partnership also encourages parents to be Share Aware and to talk to their children about what is and is not suitable to share online.

For further advice parents can call our Online Safety Helpline for tips on all things online safety, including setting up parental controls, on 0808 800 5002. You can also book an appointment with an NSPCC-trained O2 Guru in store for support, whether you’re an O2 customer or not.

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