CHILDLINE ADVICE: A chance to stop and look at how we spend time online

In some ways, we’re all more connected than we used to be. While we’re not able to see much of each other in person, most of us will be staying in touch with friends, family and colleagues online.

By Darren Worth
Monday, 8th February 2021, 12:00 am
Top tips on ensuring safe play on the internet for children.
Top tips on ensuring safe play on the internet for children.

The online world has done wonders at keeping us together, entertained, educated and informed when we’ve all been at home.

But while the benefits have been felt more widely, the dangers have also become apparent to more of us. Tomorrow is the UK Safer Internet Centre’s Safer Internet Day, a point in the year when we all get a chance to stop and look at how we, and especially our children, spend time online. At Childline in a lot of the conversations we have with children, they mention some element of online connection. This can vary hugely, and many of these conversations will talk about the positive aspects – finding support from friends or the Childline website, for instance.

But we also see a wide range of the negative side, from children seeing something online which confused or upset them, to online bullying, grooming and even sexual abuse.

Keeping up with your child’s online world may seem daunting, but there are plenty of ways for parents to help protect children online.

A simple way, to start off with, is to set controls on the devices and apps children and young people use. It’s always worth checking on what you can control on each app, and what features they have, before they’re downloaded.

Our Net-Aware site, jointly run by NSPCC and O2, offers free advice on a lot of the most popular apps available. Here, you can find out about privacy settings and the risks each app can pose – like whether they contain mature themes or have an inbuilt chat function. And the most important thing any parent can do is to talk to their children about what they’re doing online – what games and apps they enjoy, who they speak to if they use chat apps, and what they like to talk about.

The more we talk to children and young people about their online worlds, the more normal it becomes and the more they trust us to help when things go wrong. Children can also talk to our counsellors over the phone and online, 365 days a year, about anything they like – online or otherwise.

For more information about the UK Safer Internet Centre and Safer Internet Day 2021, please visit https://www.saferinternet.org.uk/