OPINION: Helping your children stay safe online this winter

More time inside over winter usually means more time online for children

More time inside over winter usually means more time online for children - Credit: PA

Emma Motherwell of the NSPCC explains how parents can keep their children safe online

After what feels like an extended summer, it seems that finally autumn is here. And with its arrival many children will most likely decide to stay warm indoors, rather than venturing outside into the crisp autumnal air.

Although many children like to be at home, some may struggle to keep themselves occupied, potentially leading them to spend more time online accessing games, videos and of course social media.

The internet can be a huge benefit for both parents and children. It’s a great way for young people to stay in touch with their friends, keep them entertained and they can learn valuable new skills. But it can also bring risks too.

Children spending more time online face an increased risk of inadvertently discovering, inappropriate and explicit content. And our NSPCC staff and Childline counsellors have spoken to many children in recent years who have found the ever-growing influence of social media leads them to compare themselves negatively to others.

All these factors can have a huge impact on their mental health and well-being. But being at home more often allows more opportunities for parents and carers talk to children about how to stay safe online.

By talking regularly to young people about this, the same way a parent would ask about a child’s day at school, this can help children feel relaxed about the topic.

Most Read

That way, if they ever encounter something that distresses them online, they’re more likely to speak to their parents or caregivers about it right away.

It can be difficult to know where to start though, and that’s where the NSPCC Online Safety Hub can help www.nspcc.org.uk/keeping-children-safe/online-safety.

The hub is organised by topic, to make information easy to find. We have pages for social media, online gaming and parental controls, explaining the risks and steps parents can take to help keep their children safe online.

We also cover what parents need to know about topics such as sharing ‘nudes’, livestreaming, harmful content and online reporting. Visitors to the hub will be able to find advice and tips to help keep children safe online.

A lot of groups and schools in the East of England and across the UK have already signed up to the NSPCC’s free online safety webinars, and these regular events are a tremendously useful tool when it comes to speaking to young people about the internet.

Parents can also sign up for a free pre-recorded webinar that contains some useful tips too.

Simply email parentworkshops@nspcc.org.uk to book a free place. An email invite will follow to the simple, straightforward online presentation that will help make it easier to keep families safer online. It’s fun, there’s no techno-babble, and the information it shares could help keep children safer in the online world.

Remember, by discussing the apps, games and sites a child uses and exploring their security features together, parents can help ensure their child is confident and safe online.

The NSPCC Helpline is also available at any time to discuss any questions or concerns about online safety a parent may have.

For some children, online life is real life, so it’s worth remembering that it’s natural that some young people might not always feel comfortable speaking to a parent or carer about things happening online.

If that’s the case, the important thing is to be understanding, reassure them they can talk about it if they want, and let them know there are resources like www.childline.org.uk where they can discuss their online concerns.

The Childline website has moderated message boards so they can speak to children their own age, and our counsellors are available around the clock.

It may feel daunting to talk about online safety, especially when your children might be using the internet differently to you, but we hope that by providing advice, tools and knowledge, you can enjoy winter, confident your children are safer online.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter