How to keep children and young people safe online during COVID-19

10th April 2020, 7:48am | By Marc Read |

Parents are being offered advice and support to ensure their children keep safe, as they spend more time online during COVID-19.

As families stay at home there are concerns children and young people may be vulnerable to online exploitation.

The government has shared a number of online resources for parents to help them speak to their children and ensure they are staying safe while accessing social media and websites. These include:

  • Internet matters (support for parents and carers to keep their children safe online which offers age-specific advice)
  • Parent info (support for parents and carers to keep their children safe online) – contains a host of information on games, safety and settings relationships, sex and health and wellbeing.
  • Net-aware (support for parents and carers from the NSPCC)

Helpful advice from the Internet Matters site includes:

  • Install parental controls on your home broadband.
  • Encourage your child to talk about how they use the internet and what they do – a good time to talk is when they mention a new website or have a new device.
  • Agree and set boundaries with them – you could set up a family contract, including when they use them and for how long.
  • Encourage them to use their tech devices in a communal area.
  • Start discussions about social networking early – make sure they’re aware anything they upload could stay around forever online.
  • If your child has a social networking profile, teach them to block or ignore people and how to set strict privacy settings. Request you become a friend or follower.
  • For older children, don’t be afraid to bring up challenging issues such as sexting, pornography and cyberbullying.
  • Talk about online reputation – remind them they should only do things online they wouldn’t mind you a teacher or future employer seeing.
  • Use safe settings on mobiles, but if you’re using public WiFi try to use family friendly WiFi schemes that block inappropriate content.
  • Remind them how important it is not to give in to peer pressure to send inappropriate comments or images. The Send this instead and Zipit apps will help them deal with these types of requests.

Cllr Pauline Church, Cabinet Member for Children, Education and Skills, said: “This is a strange time for all of us and it’s particularly hard for children and young people, who are having to adjust to being at home 24/7.

“Many young people are using their devices to keep in contact with their friends during this period of social distancing, and it’s important that they’re safe while doing so.

“There is plenty of helpful advice out there to help parents talk these issues through with their children and ensure they are staying safe while online.”

Detective Inspector Chris Feerick from Wiltshire Police’s Public Protection Department said: “At this time when more children are remaining at home and consequently on the internet regularly we are conscious that criminals will attempt to target the young and so there will inevitably be an increase in online sexual abuse offences.

“Grooming involves communication with a child in order to commit a sexual offence.  Offenders build a relationship with a young person by making out they are a new friend, but they could actually be intending to do harm, daring the young person to perform acts on camera, or arranging to meet the child in person.

“We ask parents or guardians to make sure they are aware of what their children are doing online and who they are talking to.  This is the advice we give always, but it seems to be even more pertinent at this time of lock down.

“If any member of the public has concerns about online grooming, they should report them to police or to their partners:  Childline on 0800 1111 or NSPCC on 0808 800 5000.  If you think a child is at immediate risk of harm call 999.”

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