Safer internet guidance
Are you talking to your child or young person regularly about healthy friendships?
Speak to the young people regularly about what makes a positive relationship. These should be based on trust & respect. The same outlook should be mirrored online as in the real world.
Encourage them to only have friends online who they know in the real world… not people they meet on the internet. Find out where they are making their friends and how they keep in contact with them.
Make it clear that they should not accept friend requests from unknown individuals. Discourage them from clicking on any unknown sites.
Children and young people aren’t always aware of the risks and dangers they place themselves in when choosing to meet up with strangers. Studies show that many children and young people will go alone when meeting up with who they may consider to be their online friend. There is a high risk of these children and young people being groomed online. Keep talking to the child or young person about the dangers of strangers trying to befriend them on line and asking to meet up with them.
Ask them to identify someone they feel comfortable talking to, about any concerns or issues they have whilst using the internet or a gaming device. A good idea is for a child or young person to agree that they will have a trusted adult as a friend on their social media sites and online gaming groups.
The young person’s information can inadvertently be shared via a friend’s content. A vast amount of information can be made public without someone personally sharing it. It is wise to help your young person be conscious about who they share their personal information with.
Do you know how they present themselves to others online?
Help them to build confidence both online and in the real world about themselves and their self-image. When online, children and young people can hide behind a persona, so they can be more confident and express themselves more easily. To preserve their anonymity and protect their identity you can suggest they use an online nickname.
There is always a pressure on children and young people to have lots of friends. Let them know the importance lies in the value of friendships rather than the quantity.
When they are sharing photos, thoughts, and feelings in a sexualised manner, be mindful not to embarrass, belittle, or humiliate them. Rather, take the time to discuss how this can put them at risk; and don’t be afraid to ask the young person how they think they could be coming across to others. Encourage them to think before they post, as they may later regret sharing something.
You can quickly and comprehensively google your child or young person to discover how much information they are sharing online. This can also help establish if there are any fake accounts under their name and likeness, which you can go on to have removed.
Do you know which social media sites and chat rooms they subscribe to? Do you understand what they get from each of these sites?
Make it your responsibility to keep up to date with which sites they frequent and what they involve. Spend time together where they can show you what these sites are and how they work.
(You can find a list of common social media sites at the end of this booklet)
Remind the child or young person to delete and deactivate any accounts which they no longer use. This can help shrink their digital footprint and protect their personal information and identity.
You may not always agree with the social sites they use but try to understand their reasons for wanting to access them before you make a decision about preventing them from using them.
If you are aware that the young person in your care use chat rooms, check if they know how to keep themselves safe whilst chatting online. You can help them to do this by encouraging them to ignore or block unwanted chatters. Should they have a problem, there is a function on the website where they can report the concern or seek help. There should be a live moderator present in the chat room. Chatting can’t be monitored without their presence and so this can potentially become unsafe for a child or young person.
With any pop-up windows, ensure to advise your child or your person to close them, by clicking the red cross at the top right corner. Discourage them from clicking inside them as they can be untrustworthy.
Are you aware if your child is a victim of, or involved in, cyber bullying? How can you protect your child or young person from any online abuse or potential harm?
Help your child or young person to recognise and understand what is classed as bullying behaviours, whether they are the victim or the involved in bullying others.
Not all bullying behaviours will be classed as breaking the law, however threatening behaviour and harassment is against the law and will be taken seriously.
If your child or young person is experiencing any upsetting, offensive, or bullying behaviour towards them while online, help them to report it through www.nspcc.org.uk
You or your child / young person can also seek advice and if necessary report it to www.ceop.police.uk by clicking the ‘Report Abuse’ button on their site. CEOP Is the Child Exploitation Online Protection centre, and don’t be afraid to contact your local police directly.
If they need to block someone for any reason, or report them, every site also has its’ own process to do this. You can learn how they work on the NSPCC NetAware website at www.net-aware.org.uk
Where there is anything making the young person uncomfortable online, ask them to be specific as to what this is so you have a better understanding of the situation. This is especially important if you want to take the matter further by reporting it.
Be mindful of how you respond to a young person who informs you of any online concerns; be open and understanding as surveys have shown that young people fear they will be prevented from using the internet if they were to confide in you. They are also worried about how carers may react and respond to their disclosure and how the matter may be dealt with; as they feel things could be made worse.
Do you understand the concept of pro-harm sites? Are you aware if your young person might be using them?
Pro- harm sites can be both harmful and helpful to a child or young person, offering good and bad advice, tips and support.
Look for warning signs that the child or young person might be using pro-harm sites.
Making judgements is not the key, listening is. Try to understand why they are drawn to these sites and what support they are getting from them.
Don’t be afraid to talk to them about self-harm and eating disorders and try to help them seek appropriate support and help, and to find healthier coping mechanisms.
It is important to not immediately prevent them from using pro-harm sites; instead, gradually wean them off, as these sites could be their only source of support.
Always take the time to make positive comments on how they look and behave, to help them build confidence and feel good about their image and who they are.
Does your child or young person make use of privacy settings? Would you know how to help set them up?
Talk to them about how much information they are sharing with others; and what they feel is or isn’t okay to share. Let them know that they have a choice to make their account public or private.
If you take the time to learn about the privacy and safety measures of the sites they use, you can be more confident that they are keeping themselves safe.
Always turn off the location settings on your young person’s mobile devices so their whereabouts can’t be tracked. Discourage young people from checking in or geo-tagging their photos and be cautious of apps that can reveal a devices’ location.
To set safer boundaries for your child or young person you can use your Internet Service Provider’s safety filters, which they can help you set up. These can restrict access to certain age inappropriate sites and limit the time they can access the internet. These features are also available on mobile networks and are easily set up.
There are also software packages, some of which are freely available, to perform the same functions.
The UK Safer Internet Centre has video tutorials that can help you set up the filters on your home’s devices.
Be sure that your young person is using a strong password and that they are not sharing them with others. Encouraging the use of a family account with a single password is a good way to monitor their online activity and keep them protected.
How can you find out about the age restrictions of the sites and games your children and young people use?
Many social media sites have a minimum age policy for their users, however your child or young person could easily give a false date of birth. It is the carers’ responsibility to ensure the young people in their care abide by the rules as much as possible, as the websites take no responsibility for any misuse of their service.
The restrictions are there to safeguard children and young people from being exposed to potential harm. Should any harm occur, the giving of false information absolves the site of any wrong doing.
A list of the more commonly used social media sites and their minimum ages can be found at the back of this booklet.
You can also set up parental controls to filter results on search engines, for example, Google’s Safe Search.
PEGI, or The Pan-European Game Information, age rating system is in place, so parents and carers can make informed decisions about which games the children and young people in their care are playing. Just like film ratings, games have age appropriate content, and many modern games can be quite graphic and disturbing for younger children.
Web enabled devices have settings and features to enable parental controls. Instructions can usually be found in user manuals or on manufacturers’ websites. Always ensure you set up a new device yourself before handing it over.
Do you use the internet as a family?
Find something that you can do online to use the internet together as a family. This is a good way to become savvier about the young person’s knowledge and use of the internet, and to promote its positive uses. It can be enjoyed together.
You can encourage your young person to get involved in more positive activities on the internet such as fundraising and social events, which can in turn create a positive footprint for them.
Placing the computer in a busy part of the house, for example the living room or kitchen, will enable you to monitor their usage and make you easily available to become involved should they need you to.
Have you thought about creating an agreement for their internet usage?
Just as you have house rules offline, there are rules that you could put in place for them to follow when they are online too. You could even make this agreement part of your everyday house rules.
Things to consider are how often they are online, their usage needs, and which sites you agree that they can and can’t use.
An agreement can help you both be clear on the expectations of the young person’s internet use.
Have a look at the example agreement you can find near the back of this booklet. You can use this one or make your own with the help of the child or young person.
If you are a Regional Foster Families registered carer, click here to submit an internet agreement with a child / young person.
Is your child or young person able to connect to the internet via other means?
Any devices used such as iPads, phones, or gaming devices, can be used to access the internet. Part of the house rules could be that these devices are removed from them at bedtime or have a cut off time.
Make it your business to know who they are talking to when playing online games and speaking in chatrooms. Warn them of the dangers of meeting up with any players they have only met online.
If you have any concerns regarding a player’s behaviour towards the child or young person; including invites to meet up, offensive language or bullying, encourage or help them to report it. Make sure that the child or young person is using sites that have live moderators and strict rules.
Be mindful and check if young people have internet access while staying in others’ care. Your online safety measures should apply whether at home or away to ensure continuous protection is in place for them.
Here is a list of some different social media sites children and young people could be using and the minimum age requirements for them. Listed by popularity according to recent usage figures (Feb 2018).
Facebook (13) *2.2 Billion+
The most popular social media site. Used for social networking, sharing videos and photos, exchanging messages.
Youtube (18/13 with parental permission) *1.5 Billion
Google has bought Youtube, it is under the google account. Users can view and download videos and music.
Whatsapp (16) *1.3 Billion
It’s the most popular global messaging and calling app available and it’s free.
Instagram (13) *800 Million+
Online photo sharing network. Users can post photos, one at a time and use hashtags. It is the fastest growing social network. Instagram has found success with young people.
Tumblr (13) *794 Million
A blogging site, tag pictures, videos, and other multimedia. Very visual. Used quite positively but can be used in negative ways. Young people can look to find aspiration for negative information, such as anorexia/self- harm. Can use private settings.
Twitter (13) *330 Million+
A social network service where you can read and send messages otherwise known as ‘Tweets’. To send tweets you must be registered but can be unregistered and still read the tweets. Most young people are using this, wanting more and more followers. They can follow singers and different artists. They might not know most of the people who are following them.
Snapchat (13) *330 Million
Allows you to send a 10 second photo or film message, before it deletes itself. It does not save anywhere, it just disappears. Videos can be sent for all to see or just certain people. Appeals to young people as they can send short explicit videos or photos. You can draw on the videos with your finger, so it is also very creative.
Skype (13) *300 Million
Free to use video calling app.
Reddit (13) *250 Million
Reddit is an entertainment, social networking, and news website where you can submit content, such as text posts or direct links, making it essentially an online bulletin board system.
Pinterest (13) *200 Million
Allows users to visually share and discover new interests by posting ‘pinning’ images or videos to their own boards and browsing what others have ‘pinned’. Users can upload their own images or pin things they find on the web.
Google+ (13) *111 Million active users of 2.2 Billion Google Users
A Google+ account is created automatically when users sign up to a Google, therefore it is not always used as a social media platform. Features included the ability to post photos and status updates, it also has instant messaging, text and video chats called Hangouts, events, location tagging, and the ability to edit and upload photos to private cloud-based albums.
Flickr (18/13 with parental permission) *90 Million+
Flickr (pronounced “flicker”) is an image hosting and video hosting website.
Tinder (17) *46 Million
A dating app that allows people to chat once they ‘match’. Sign up is through Facebook where it takes all the information from your Facebook account and four images to create a profile. Need to be savvy to work out the privacy settings. There is a great risk of telling everyone your information.
Ask.fm (13) *20 Million
One of the biggest social media sites in the world. You create an online profile. It is similar to Ask Jeeves, except that when you ask questions it’s to real people. There’s no privacy, you are opening it up to everyone. Uploading a photo and asking the popular question ‘am I hot or not?’ has been a way for young people to find out how others rate them.
Kik (18/13 with Parental Permission) *15 Million
Similar to SMS Texting but requires a WiFi connection or some sort of data access to use it. For instant unlimited texting.
This is essentially a modern language which incorporates the use of numbers, symbols, abbreviations, pictures, and emoticons.
It is good to be aware of these interpretations of words and what they represent. Sometimes these words and symbols are used as a way of talking in code, they do not always mean what they appear to.
To help you have a better understanding of some of the abbreviations that can be used by children and young people, a few examples are listed near the back of the booklet.
Netspeak is a unique language used mainly by children and young people. To get clued up on some of the popular common abbreviations, have a look at the following list:
121: one to one
JJ: just joking
K: all right/ok
BBB: bye bye baby
KFY/K4Y: kiss for you
B4N: bye for now
BBL: be Back later
KPC: keeping parents clueless
BF: boyfriend or best friend
IRL: in real life
BBF: best friends forever
LMIRL: let’s meet in real life
LOL: laughing out loud, lots of love
CUL: see you later
NP: no problem/nosey parents
CYO: see you online
EGBOK: everything going to be ok
F2F: face to face
PAL: parents are listening
PAW: parents are watching
POS: parent over shoulder
WTGP: want to go private
PIR: parent in room/people in room
WB: welcome back/write back
ILU/ILY: I love you/I like you
WYCM: will you call me back
For a more comprehensive list of netspeak words visit the link below:
If you are a Regional Foster Families registered carer, click here to submit an internet agreement with a child / young person.
Other helpful websites
Here are some useful website addresses that can give further knowledge and advice when supporting children and young people to keep themselves safe whilst online.