How to talk to your child about online safety

4 minute read

The internet is a great place for children to learn and socialise. But talking about potential dangers helps them stay safe.

  • Teaching your child about online safety helps them understand the risks and how to avoid them
  • Discussing online safety with your kids naturally and regularly shows you’re interested and offers the chance to give advice
  • Cyberbullying is a problem as the abuse can slowly become more severe over instant chats or social media

Talking to your children about cyberbullying, interacting with strangers and the reality of social media can help them learn how to browse safely. Starting the conversation with your children can be a challenge, but our advice can help you support them.

Why online safety is important

Children are using internet-connected devices more now than ever, spending an average of two hours on them every day.  

Just like you’d warn your kids about keeping away from dangerous places and talking to strangers in the street, it’s important to teach them about cyber safety.

Explaining the basics of online safety can help them realise the risks and how to avoid them – making their online experience a happy one.

While there are many positives of your child using online services, there are potential dangers they need to know about, including:

  • Cyberbullying 
  • Giving away personal information 
  • Interacting with strangers 
  • Viewing inappropriate content 

Remember, being online isn’t all negative, so focus on the positives too. The internet can help them learn additional things to what they’re taught at school and maintain their friendships outside the classroom.

What is cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place online, over social media, instant messaging, gaming chats or by text messaging. 

It’s different from physical bullying, as the abuse can continue when your child is at home. Cyberbullying comes in many different forms:

  • Receiving abusive or inappropriate messages
  • Being targeted using a fake social media account or abusive group
  • Being encouraged to do inappropriate or dangerous things over messaging 

There are a few things you can do to help your child prevent, cope with and flag cyberbullying:

  • Look out for signs of cyberbullying – your child might find it hard to open up if they’re being bullied online. If they’re reluctant to go to school, struggling with their work or become withdrawn, these could be signs they’re being cyberbullied. 
  • Talk to them openly, calmly and supportively – if your child is being cyberbullied, try to bring it up with them in an open and calm manner. Reassure them you’re there to help and that they can come to you with any concerns. 
  • Tell them who else they can talk to and report it – your child may be reluctant to talk to you about it, which can be difficult as a parent, but you can still support them. Tell them about services like Childline and the NSPCC, who can help. Encourage them to talk to older siblings too if that would make them feel more comfortable.

How to talk to your child

Starting a conversation with your kids about online safety can be difficult. It’s particularly hard if you’re not fully aware of the possible risks and how to prevent them.

Do a little research on internet safety for children first. This puts you in a better position to offer age-appropriate advice for your child.

Our guide offers 10 tips to stay safe online , so you can quickly and easily learn more.

Once you’re clued up on what risks to look out for, try a few of these tips when addressing online safety:

  • Bring it up naturally in conversation – much like you do with their school and social life, show an interest in what they’re doing online. Ask about what they’re doing online at the dinner table and make discussing it a normal part of your daily conversations. 
  • Let them know you’re there to answer questions – it’s important your children see you as someone they can ask for advice if they’re worried about something they’ve seen or experienced online. Becoming that go-to person will help you stay informed and aware of what they’re doing online too. 
  • Ask about who they’re interacting with online – this can be a sensitive topic to broach, but it’s important that you get the full picture. Be calm, open and avoid being too intrusive, judgemental or restrictive. Talk about who they’re following on social media, talking to during a gaming livestream and messaging on chats.
  • Get them involved in the discussion – making your child part of the conversation creates an environment where they feel involved. It helps foster trust, which can make them more likely to come to you with a problem. Create a dialogue about what they feel is suitable to view online. 

Find more advice on keeping your family and yourself safe online by visiting our cyber security hub.

This article contains links to other sites, and we're not responsible for the contents of any of these websites.
All content is approved by our in-house advisory board of experts.