Parent and Carer Support

Online Safety

Using the internet with children and young people is an incredibly rewarding experience. Students have access to the internet at school and home where some supervision and restrictions can be applied, but access on their phones is much more difficult to manage, and the messages and information received through social media can have a significant impact on emotional wellbeing and mental health.


Cyberbullying is an increasingly common form of bullying behaviour which happens on social networks, games and mobile phones. Cyberbullying can include spreading rumours about someone, or posting nasty or embarrassing messages, images or videos. Children may know who’s bullying them online – it may be an extension of offline peer bullying or abusive behaviour from someone they are or have been in a relationship with - or they may be targeted by someone using a fake or anonymous account. It’s easy to be anonymous online and this may increase the likelihood of engaging in bullying behaviour.

Cyberbullying includes:

  • sending threatening or abusive text messages

  • creating and sharing embarrassing images or videos

  • ‘trolling’ - the sending of menacing or upsetting messages on social networks, chat rooms or online games

  • excluding children from online games, activities or friendship groups

  • setting up hate sites or groups about a particular child

  • encouraging young people to self-harm

  • voting for or against someone in an abusive poll

  • creating fake accounts, hijacking or stealing online identities to embarrass a young person or

  • cause trouble using their name

  • sending explicit messages, also known as sexting

  • pressuring children into sending sexual images or engaging in sexual conversations


Grooming is when someone builds an emotional connection with a child to gain their trust for the purposes of sexual abuse, sexual exploitation or trafficking. Children and young people can be groomed online or face-to-face, by a stranger or by someone they know - for example a family member, friend or professional. Groomers may be any age and gender. Many children and young people don’t understand that they have been groomed or that what has happened is abuse.

Groomers can use social media sites, instant messaging apps including teen dating apps, or online gaming platforms to connect with a young person or child. They can spend time learning about a young person’s interests from their online profiles and then use this knowledge to help them build up a relationship. It’s easy for groomers to hide their identity online - they may pretend to be a child and then chat and become ‘friends’ with children they are targeting. Groomers may look for:

  • usernames or comments that are flirtatious or have a sexual meaning

  • public comments that suggest a child has low self-esteem or is vulnerable

Groomers don’t always target a particular child. Sometimes they will send messages to hundreds of young people and wait to see who responds. Groomers no longer need to meet children in real life to abuse them. Increasingly, groomers are sexually exploiting their victims by persuading them to take part in online sexual activity. When sexual exploitation happens online, young people may be persuaded, or forced, to:

  • send or post sexually explicit images of themselves

  • take part in sexual activities via a webcam or smartphone

  • have sexual conversations by text or online.

Abusers may threaten to send images, video or copies of conversations to the young person’s friends and family unless they take part in other sexual activity. Images or videos may continue to be shared long after the sexual abuse has stopped.

Where can you seek further help, support or report a concern?

Online abuse can be reported to the National Crime Agency Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP)
Childline provide telephone support and online information and advice on e-safety: 0800 1111
Abusive online content can be reported to Internet Watch Foundation which works in partnership with police and voluntary organisations to remove images that may be abusive or used to exploit children
Kooth is an online counselling support for 11-18 year olds in Sheffield. Free Register online
The NSPCC website has useful information, advice and resources
UK Safer Internet Centre has free resources to talk to your child about online safety. Includes activities, conversation starters and information to help parents and carers talk to their children about how to navigate the issue of online identity in a digital age in a safe, responsible and respectful way
Kidscape has practical advice on privacy settings and how to block users to help young people stay in control of their online world as well as a parent advice line: Parent Advice Line: 020 7823 5430 (Monday- Wednesday 9.30-2.30)

Specific Social Media & Gaming Advice