By taking an active role in supervising how your child uses the internet, and putting in place safeguards and parental controls on their device, you can help to keep your child safe while they’re online.
Common apps and social media sites
Apps like WhatsApp, Kik and Snapchat or SnapKidz give a fun and instant way for kids to chat and share with each other. Some children use these apps because they think they’re more anonymous or they think messages disappear. Once they’ve sent a photo, it can be screengrabbed, saved, forwarded, uploaded or edited without their permission.
Older children are more likely to use video messaging apps, especially anonymous ones like Yik Yak, ooVoo or Omegle. These apps can expose young people to more sexual images. Other social media applications popular with young people include Facebook, Facebook messenger which allows direct private messaging, Instagram and Twitter. It would be a good idea to have an open and honest policy with your child so you are aware what apps they are using and who they are sharing information with for safeguarding purposes.
Many apps have a minimum age requirement and are deemed unsuitable for children.
The UK Government has launched a website to give additional advice to children about chatting safely on the Internet. Your child can access the site by visiting Thinkuknow website.
If you’re worried about online abuse or the way someone has been communicating online, please make a report to CEOP Child Exploitation and Online Protection who specialise in this area. Alternatively, please contact us directly. Please keep and make a note of all messages as they may be used as evidence. We would also recommend removing your child’s use of the devices in the meantime.
Sexting is when someone shares sexual, naked or semi-naked images or videos of themselves or others, or sends sexually explicit messages. They can be sent using mobiles, tablets, smartphones, laptops – or any device that allows you to share media and images.
Sexting can be seen as harmless, but creating or sharing explicit images of a child is illegal, even if the person is doing it is a child. A young person is breaking the law if they:
- Take an explicit photo or video of themselves or a friend
- Share an explicit image or video of a child even if it’s shared between children of the same age.
- Possess, download or store an explicit image or video of a child, even if the child has their permission for it to be created.
However, as of January 2016 in England and Wales, if a young person is found creating or sharing images, the police can choose to record that a crime has been committed but that taking formal action isn’t in the public interest.
This is a criminal offence and you must report it to Northumbria Police. Ensure that you keep any evidence of the images but we recommend taking away the device until we’re able to assist you.
- Write down a list of rules and position it in a place close to the computer where they can be easily read. Talk through the rules with your child so they understand why they're there.
- Don't place computers where it is difficult to monitor what your child is viewing.
- Show an interest in what they're accessing/doing online. If possible, get to know your child's online friends.
- Urge them not to give out their home address, e-mail address or personal information (school, home town, areas where they play or meet with friends) to people they meet on the internet.
- Make sure your child knows not to arrange to meet someone they have met online.
- Make sure your child is aware that they shouldn’t open email attachments from senders that they do not know.
- Encourage your child to tell you about anything they think is inappropriate and reassure them it is not their fault. Make sure they know you will support them.
- You can alter privacy settings on social media accounts to prevent strangers from contacting your child.
- If your child has been sexting, consider talking with other teens and parents involved, and possibly your child’s school, based on what you’ve learned, but keep your child informed and involved.