The internet has changed all of our lives, particularly our children’s. For parents and carers this opens up a whole new world of things to be aware of. For many of us, this can all be a bit too much.

How can I be as good a parent online as I am offline? You might be struggling to keep up with the things your child is doing online, you might wonder whether what they are doing is safe, and you might also be thinking how can I be as good a parent online as I am offline?

Take a look at the information below and the websites we recommend and you will find practical tips and simple guidance videos to help you.

Is it safe to use social media sites?

Social media sites like Facebook, Bebo and Twitter are only as safe as the people using them. Like any social group or interaction there will be some people who are more respectful and kind than others. Social media sites can be a great way to keep in touch with friends and share thoughts, information and photos however you do need to be aware of the possible problems. One common problem is people logging on to other people’s accounts and posting hurtful or inappropriate comments. You can protect your profile by having a strong password that is hard to guess and has a combination of numbers and letters. Never share your password unless you are absolutely sure that you trust the person. You can change your password easily so it can be useful to change it regularly to keep your identity safe.

Home and family guidelines

  • Talk together and have fun learning together.

  • Keep virus and firewall software up to-date.

  • Remember that passwords should be kept private and not shared with others.

  • Many e-safety incidents relate back to the sharing of passwords.

  • Involve everyone and agree your family guidelines and rules. Remember that sometimes what is acceptable for a Year 10 is not necessarily acceptable for a Year 6.

  • Regularly discuss online safety and go online with your children. Communication is the key to ‘staying safe’ online.

  • Enable your ‘browser safe’ search option and/ or consider using internet filtering software, walled gardens and child friendly search engines. Critically view all content as some websites are not what they appear.

  • Keep the computer in a communal area of the house, where it’s easier to monitor what your children are viewing. Do not let children have webcams, or similar, in their bedroom. Remember any image, sound or text can be copied and viewed by everyone.

  • Talk to your children about why they should not give out their personal details. If they want to subscribe to any online service then make up a family email address to receive the mail.

  • We all love to chat and children are no different. Encourage your children to use moderated chat rooms and never to meet up with an online ‘friend’ without first telling you.

  • Time spent online should be monitored to help prevent obsessive use of the internet.

  • Children need to follow a range of activities many of which will be offline.

  • Encourage your children, and in fact all family members, to tell you if they feel uncomfortable, upset or threatened by anything they see online.

  • Have proportionate responses if the family guidelines are not followed.

  • See http://kids.getnetwise.org/tools/toolscontracts for further suggestions.

  • Computers, games consoles, mobile phones etc… are the doorway to the online world.

Types of on-line communication


You may have decided that your child will not have a mobile phone until a certain age, but you have allowed them to have a portable gaming or media device. It’s important to remember that most of these now go online and have virtually the same functionality as mobile phones. For example, through most tablets or media players (eg iPod Touch) you can send text messages and images, talk to someone via webcam and access social networks. Many of the communication apps available are not aimed at children. For example, the popular ‘WhatsApp’ messaging service requires users to be over 16. So always check the age requirements and the nature of any app that your child wants on their device.


You may have seen the news stories about young people being bullied and harassed on social networking sites and this leading to tragic events. One of the sites involved is Ask.fm, in which people can ask and answer questions to each other, often anonymously. This anonymity is open to abuse and the site is frequently used for posting hurtful or obscene messages.


It’s easy to ignore the terms and conditions of websites and services when we sign up for them, but when we click ‘accept’ we are saying that we have read and understood them. One of the common terms of social websites is that children under 13 may not sign up. This is true of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and many others, as they are complying with a United States law known as COPPA, or the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. This act states that the personal information of children under 13 must not be collected by entities under U.S jurisdiction, which many of the biggest websites and online services are. Whilst this may not be legally enforceable in the UK, it is nevertheless a violation of the terms of the site in question.


WhatsApp is a mobile messaging app which allows users to exchange messages using existing phone contacts without having to pay text message fees. WhatsApp Messenger is available on most mobile devices including iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Windows Phone and Nokia. WhatsApp users can create groups and send each other unlimited images, video and audio messages. For all phone types, WhatsApp is free to download. WhatsApp used to charge a 69p per year subscription fee, but this has since been removed. (Jan 2016).

WhatsApp uses an Internet connection using 4G or Wi-Fi to send and receive messages to your contacts. As long as the user hasn’t exceeded the data limit or is connected to a free Wi-Fi network, messaging over WhatsApp should not cost extra.

As of May 2018, WhatsApp’s minimum age of use is 16 years old if you live in the European Union, or a country that has adopted the GDPR, as the UK has. It was previously 13 and WhatsApp has not yet said what will happen to users between 13 and 16 who already held accounts under the old terms and conditions. By using WhatsApp, a user agrees to provide certain personal information such as their mobile phone number, billing and mobile device information.

If WhatsApp learns that identifiable information of a child under 16 has been collected on the WhatsApp Site or WhatsApp Service, then WhatsApp may deactivate the account.

WhatsApp is a great way for young people to socialise with their friends. Children can only talk to existing contacts on their phone, although this may feel safer, it’s still important to remember that some content shared may not be appropriate for children, or they have contacts (strangers) in their phone who they have never met face to face. Likewise, as with all social media, caution is advised over your child’s digital footprint, particularly the content (photos, videos and messages) they choose to share via WhatsApp. Once shared, it can be copied, re shared and posted anywhere online.

WhatsApp also contains a group chat function. The feature lets users chat with up to 100 people in one conversation stream. Each group is set up by one contact who becomes the group admin – they’re the only user who can add or remove participants and change/add new group admins.

Group conversations usually take place between friends. But sometimes, users can be added to a group where they don’t know everyone else. Even if fellow users in the group aren’t contacts, they will still be able to see messages your child posts in the group, and your child will be able to see theirs. Likewise, if they’re added to a group with someone they’ve blocked, the blocked person will be able to contact them there.

Therefore, it’s possible they could see or be contacted by someone they don’t know and could be vulnerable to content posted by this person.

Although a user cannot control who adds them to a group chat, they can always control their own participation within it – they can leave whenever they want to.

It’s a good idea to advise your child that if they are in a group chat with someone they don’t know and are uncomfortable with, they should exit the group and speak to you about it.

WhatsApp’s default privacy setting allows any other WhatsApp user to view your profile photo, status and when you were last using the app.

You can specify that your child’s Whatsapp account (when they were last online, profile photo, status) can be seen by:

Everyone - all WhatsApp users.

My Contacts - the contacts from their address book only. This is the recommended option for most users. For more information please see this website.



A popular service on many young people’s mobile phones and devices is Snapchat. This allows people to snap and send photos or videos to each other, but which disappear from the receiver’s device after a short time. Thinking that their photo will disappear, never to be seen again, may lull people into a false sense of security, leading them to send photos which they really would not want shared. It is easy for someone receiving a Snapchat image to capture it permanently on their phone. Whilst the sender may be alerted if this happens, it nevertheless means the picture could be shared beyond its intended audience. ‘Leaked’ sites have emerged where embarrassing or compromising images from Snapchat are published to the world. The advice must be, very strongly, never to send anything that you would not want to be completely public.


We have had some enquiries from Parents about children's Xbox use at home, just to clarify one or two points, in the terms of use for one of these consoles it states: "You acknowledge that some features of the Services, and some content available through the Services, may contain or expose users to material unsuitable for minors. You agree to supervise usage by minors whom you permit or enable to use the Services. Live sections of this game console is open to misuse and is not intended for use by children under 13 without adult supervision" (Terms of Use Microsoft Xbox), but it does have Parental Controls, to set the Parental controls please go to the website - https://support.xbox.com/en-GB/xbox-360/security/xbox-live-parental-control

How old do I have to be to use Facebook?

If you’re under 13 then Facebook’s rules say you can’t use the site (Many other social media sites have 13 as their minimum age too including Twitter and Instagram). Even if you’re older, Facebook warns parents they should think about supervision.

How can I block people on Facebook?

If someone is sending you abusive or inappropriate comments or links on Facebook you have a few choices. You could talk to them and ask them not to send them, remove them as a friend and/or block them. If you block a user then they can’t send you any material. In Facebook you can send messages to people who aren’t friends. However if you have blocked them then they will not be able to send things to you. There are settings to do this in the Block List which can be found in Accounts, Privacy Settings.

How do I control who sees what on Facebook?

Everyone who has a Facebook account can change their settings. You can do this by clicking onto ‘Account’ in the top right hand corner and then go to ‘Privacy settings’. You can then change these so that only certain groups or even individuals can see your posts or information. You can choose options so that only your friends and not the general public can see your posts or even select friends you don’t want to see certain information. If you are being bullied by so called friends you can easily remove them as friends so they no longer have access to your posts and can’t put messages on your news feed etc.

Can I control who sees my Facebook profile?

You can edit your settings from the privacy page which gives you control over what visitors to your profile see and you can also control who can see your details too.


Twitter is the hottest social network around, used by many celebrities to keep in touch with fans and by citizens all over the world to break news stories or just say what they are up to at any given moment. While Twitter has been great at helping people communicate quickly and in a very open manner, it’s not without its problems. Below are some Twitter safety tips.

  • Never give out your real address, or any personal details - Remember on Twitter everything you say can be open to the world

  • Never give out your password - Also be extra careful when you sign into Twitter through other websites. (Some are scams trying to find out your log-in details)

  • Think before you Tweet! - Anyone can see what you say unless you make your profile private

  • Don’t Follow Back people you don’t know - This can help protect you against Direct Message spam. You can still talk publicly using @replies

  • Go Private - If you don’t want the world to see everything you say on Twitter make your profile private, the option is in your settings on Twitter.com. That way only people you follow back will be able to see your updates, your tweets will also be hidden from the public search as well

  • Prevent your Twitter account from being hacked or stolen - Sometimes people will try to take over Twitter accounts so they can send private messages to a person’s followers but there are lots of ways you can guard against it

  • Don’t click links in Direct Messages unless you were expecting a link from that user.

  • Most hacks happen when you put your Twitter log-in details into a compromised or fake website. Be careful of sites that look like Twitter.com but aren’t. Only log-in to Twitter.com if you typed the link in directly or accessed through a link you know is safe (Bookmark)

  • If a link is not a Bit.ly link be extra careful. Bit.ly is the most popular link shortening service and does a good job at fighting these nasty links.


Instagram is a picture-sharing social network, where users set up their own accounts, share images with followers, edit the images with different filters and digital effects, and share, like or comment on each other’s images. Instagram has enjoyed the popularity of the “selfie” (images you take yourself, usually with a smartphone or tablet device) and users enjoy how easy it to share pictures and video with a comment or two, mention other users so they get notified, indicate where the image was taken, and include hashtags (search terms preceded by a #).

Here are some of the things you need to know about Instagram:

Instagram’s terms of use state that the minimum age for users is 13 yrs. For many parents, this should end the conversation. You can tell your children that this is the rule and that’s that. There are good reasons for this rule, including safety, security, privacy and experience required to exercise good judgement.

All children online are prone to stumbling across images of sex, violence and other kinds of mature content. You can install kid-safe search filters or search engines (like Google’s Kidzsearch or SafeSearchKids), but even KS1 children recognize the entertainment value of searching for YouTube videos (YouTube is second to Google as the world’s most popular search engine). Children quickly recognize the appeal of scrolling through Instagram feeds, and may stumble across images they shouldn’t be allowed to see.

What is CEOP?

CEOP (The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre) investigates cases of sex abuse and grooming on the internet. Grooming is where people make friends with you and try to involve you in inappropriate activities. In the UK this behaviour is a criminal offence. You, your parents, or anyone else who is concerned, can report incidents by clicking the red button on the top right hand corner of the CEOP website. You can also download a panic button that you can add to your Facebook page.

How do I make sure my photos are safe online?

Be very careful about what photos you put on Facebook or other social media sites. People can easily download these and could use them inappropriately or send them to people you don’t want to see them. In the Account, Privacy Settings you can set the privacy settings for individual albums and so exclude groups or individuals from seeing certain albums.

Should I keep copies of any abuse or delete them?

It is important to keep copies of any abusive texts or e mails. Although the police can get information from your computer’s hard drive, it’s helpful if you don’t delete anything you think is dodgy until the police have decided whether they need it as evidence.

e-Safety websites for Parents

www.saferinternet.org.uk/advice-centre/parents-and-carers - Tips, advice, guides and resources to help keep your child safe online. As a parent or carer you play a key role in helping your child to stay safe online. You don’t need to be an expert on the internet to help keep your child stay safe online. Our advice and resources are here to support you as you support your child to use the internet safely, responsibility and positively.

www.childnet-int.org – A non-profit making organisation working directly with children, parents and teachers to ensure that the issues of online child protection and children’s safe and positive use of the internet are addressed. Childnet International produce an online CD guide specifically for parents KnowITAll - www.childnet-int.org/kia/

www.thinkuknow.co.uk – The Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre has set up its own educational website which has been designed and written specifically for children, young people, teachers, parents and carers. ‘The Parents’ and Carers’ Guide to the Internet’, has been created by CEOP to provide a light hearted and realistic look at what it takes to be a better online parent.

www.getsafeonline.org – A beginner’s guide to using the Internet safely, including a quiz and some video tutorials about how to ‘stay safe’ online.

www.kidsmart.org.uk – Kidsmart is an award winning internet safety website for parents and those working with children. It has been developed by the children’s internet charity Childnet International and has excellent information on many of the technologies used by children, with guidance on how to ‘stay safe’ online.

http://consumers.ofcom.org.uk/2011/10/advice-for-parents – Managing your Media – Good Ofcom online safety video and guide for parents/carers.

www.bullying.co.uk – One in five young people have experienced bullying by text message or via email. This web site gives advice for children and parents on bullying.

www.chatdanger.com – This website is about the potential dangers with interactive services online like chat, IM, online games, email and on mobiles. It provides information, advice, true stories and games. The resource page also contains a number of links to other useful websites.

http://parents.vodafone.com – Vodafone have developed this website in conjunction with mumsnet. It is very accessible and provides information and guidance to parents with understanding their child’s digital world and get more involved.