Advice and Resources to Help Keep Kids Safe Online

During my ten years as a Health Education Advisor, I often heard parents and teachers say that they couldn’t keep their kids safe online because they didn’t understand enough about the Internet themselves. I’m here to show you that there is actually lots you can do to keep your kids safe online and it should be a priority because…

70% of 8-17s said they have seen images and videos not suitable for their age in the last year.

Almost 2 in 5 (38%) have received negative comments on a photo they have posted.

Almost a third of 8-17year olds who said they have shared images on a public social media profile (31%) said that they can be seen by anyone. Almost a quarter said they don’t know how to control who can see what they post on social media (23%).

Only half of 8-17 year olds (51%) said they always think about what personal information they could be sharing before they post a photo or video online

Almost half (45%) of 13-17-year-olds have seen nude or nearly nude photos of someone they know being shared around their school or local community

It’s naive to assume that we can keep our kids safe online simply by restricting or forbiding access to devices. The Internet is an amazing source of information, a convenient way of keeping in touch with people and a space to be creative. We shop online, learn online, talk online and play online. I’m of the belief that our children are going to be online a lot so we may aswel teach them how to use it appropriately in everyday life. My little boy has used his tablet with us since he was around two. He’s learnt a tonne of animal names in English and French (so have I) and could name shapes, colours and numbers at a really young age. Kids love repitition and apps are much better at repeating ‘red’ fifty times than a parent who’s been awake since 4am. We haven’t left his learning all down to apps though! My boys read books, climb trees, bake, splash in puddles, paint…but, there is still a place for technology in our lives.

BUT…there had to be a but, right! The Internet is also full of incorrect, manipulative, sexualised, violent and just plain weird stuff!  The Internet is also ever changing. Keeping kids safe online isn’t just a case of teaching your child how to set their Facebook privacy settings anymore! With new apps, websites and online games being developed and gaining huge followings it can be really daunting for parents who want to give their kids the information they need to stay safe.

Do kids naturally steer clear of danger just because we tell them they must…or is it more effective to talk to them about keeping safe and give them the skills they need to protect themselves as they develop in maturity? I think the latter is true…

But, don’t panic! You don’t need to worry about becoming a social media expert overnight. There are a few things you can implement today that should help your kids to develop a healthy attitude to electronic devices and keep them safe online.

Online Safety By Age

Keep kids safe online

86% of 3-4 year olds use a tablet so it’s essential that we start thinking early on about how we’re going to introduce them to the online world.

  • Choose your device and/or settings carefully. Tablets are a good choice for kids because their small touch screens are easy to use. Use a Fire Kids Edition Tablet or set strict parental controls (Google your specific device or refer to your users manual to find out how to do this).

  • Password protect your logins and don’t enter passwords in front of your kids.
  • Turn off instant purchases so that content can’t be purchased accidentally.
  • Check all content for suitability (apps, videos etc) before downloading.
  • Sit with your child while they play and learn. Talk to them about what they’re doing.
  • Use Kidstube instead of YouTube (I once played my nephew a video of a tractor…when the next video started playing it was titled ‘tractors, tits and totty’! Not something you’d want your three year old watching!)
  • Give them a little space sometimes…you need to know what they’re doing but you don’t need to peer over their shoulder the entire time.
  • Some nice apps to get you started are listed here at Mother and Baby. I’d also include Animal Sounds and Nighty Night (both of these are available in several languages so are great for multi-lingual kids).

Keep kids safe online

By this age, kids will have realised that there is stuff online that you don’t want them seeing and they will more than likely start challenging you.

  • Check things out for yourself…just because 20 other parents are happy to let their kids use a certain app, doesn’t mean you have to be. You should still be reviewing any content before allowing it on the device your child uses. In the same way that you hold your child’s hand to cross a busy road…you need to guide them through the online world until they understand it.
  • Consistency and fairness are so important when kids start to challenge the rules you set. If they start pushing for apps or games that you think are unsuitable talk to them about it. Explain to them that it’s your job as a parent to protect them from things that are dangerous, scary or inappropriate.
  • Parental controls should still be restricting the use of Google and YouTube. Google ‘cowgirl’ and see what comes up on the first page if you don’t believe me! 
  • Sit with them while they use Google for research.
  • Balance is important so make sure that time on devices isn’t replacing time spent doing other hobbies. Some children will know when they’ve had enough, but others will find it harder to stop and will need help to self-regulate. Set time limits using Screen Time Parental Control App if necessary.
  • These videos and colouring pages on the Think You Know website can be used to start talking to your kids about online safety.

Keep kids safe online

Your child will soon be a teenager (or acting like one anyway!) They’ll be wanting more and more independence. From my experience as a Primary School teacher, this is the age when they really start becoming aware of social media.

  • Set up a desktop in a family room so that you can show your kids more of the online freedom they crave. This way you can still monitor what they’re doing.
  • Facebook sets its minimum at 13 but if you’re one of the many parents that allows their child to access the social media site younger, please bare in mine that if they say they are 13 at 11 years old, then, when they’re 15 it will look as if they’re 18 years old already!
  • If you want to report an underage Facebook account you can do so here.
  • Build a relationship where your children feel safe to talk to you about what their doing online.
  • Make it very clear that you’re there to talk about anything they see online that makes them feel uncomfortable.
  • Self-regulation will need to be actively encouraged. It’s tempting to allow an older kid to sit watching YouTube or gaming all day and through the night but as a parent you must step in if their use is excessive.
  • Enjoy exploring the Internet! You really don’t want to sound all doom and gloom! Show them how to search for local activities, plan vacations, keep in touch with family, shop and listen to music.
  • The Think You Know website has lots of games and information for you kids about online safety.

Keep kids safe online

It’s so important that young people develop healthy online habits that will help to ensure that they have positive experiences and keep them safe.

  • Set up a social media account together. Check that all security settings are set to ‘private’. You can read the rules of various social media sites here.
  • Learn together about how you can report posts and  content that isn’t allowed. You can report to social media sites directly or through CEOP.
  • Talk about online etiquette. How we interact with people. How we’re viewed by others. This generation will have their entire life story captured forever online…for everyone to see (if their settings aren’t secure).
  • Emphasise the importance of never sharing personal information online and never arranging to meet someone they met online without talking to a parent first.
  • Apps to be aware of are listed here. Some are designed to hide photos and videos, others are designed to bully others or have inappropriate conversions. You want to know how to spot them on your teens phone!
  • Sharing images of themselves is a big part of some teenagers lives. They’ll share an image, tag people and receive comments both positive and negative.There’s a lot of pressure to impress peers and research suggests that going online makes children more likely to make negative social comparisons with others…they’re never pretty/fit/happy/fun/good enough.  Talk about how ‘likes’ and comments make them and their friends feel.
  • Sexting 1 in 4 teenagers will have received a sext (sexual photo) by the time they reach 18 years old! As with sex education, preaching abstinence isn’t effective. Being a proactive parent is essential and discussions about healthy relationships and peer pressure are conversations that you should have often as a family.
  • Read up on the law together. Despite sex being legal at 16 years old, it is illegal to take, store or share images of anyone under the age of 18. Even images meant to disappear in seconds on Snapchat can be screenshot and sent on. Be open and honest with your young adults. Cyber Crimes such as online blackmailing and hacking are also taken extremely seriously.

More and more teenagers and young people are getting involved in cyber crime. Many do it for fun without realising the consequences of their actions – but the penalties can be severe.Cyber crime isn’t a victimless crime and is taken extremely seriously by law enforcement. National Crime Agency

  • Sharing images of other people is something they should be wary of.  As mentioned above, it is illegal to pass on a sexual image of someone under the age of 18.
  • Body image is a big deal! The longer kids spend on social media the less happy they feel and the more likely they are to be bullied. The ‘perfect ‘ body/life/ relationship shown on the internet is a tiny snapshot of someone’s life and young people need to be reminded of this. Boost self-esteem by taking part in other activities e.g.sports clubs, drama, scouts. Also, everyone should watch a video that shows the extent to which someone can be airbrushed to look ‘perfect’.  Body Evolution – Before and After  (Female)  or The Try Get Photoshoped (Male).
  • The Think You Know website for 14+ has loads of great videos and articles about various issues like digital dating, sharing pictures, making inappropriate comments on social media. Take a look at them with your young adults.

Wow, that’s a lot of info! If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed just remember these 5 tips: 

  1. Talk – start talking to your kids about friendships, safety and citizenship from a young age. Be proactive and open. Dont get angry if they come to you with something they’ve done wrong…help them to put it right.
  2. Stay safe – make sure they understand never to share personal information or meet up with anyone they’ve talked to online without your consent.
  3. Parental Controls – don’t let young children have free reign of the internet. Make use of passwords and don’t enter them in front of your kids. Check content before installing. As your kids get older and start to be more independent, show an interest in the apps they are using and learn about how they can be used appropriately.
  4. Be clear about the risks – be upfront about the dangers of sending or receiving explicit images of themselves or someone else. Talk about how social media could be used by universities and employers to form an opinion of them.
  5. Balance – make sure that electronic devices aren’t dominating your kids time. Develop healthy habits at a young age by trading party in a variety of activities…spend time outdoors, read together, cook, paint… Encourage them to take part in physical activities…it doesn’t have to be a more traditional ‘team sport’…they may enjoy surfing, kayaking, tennis, running, hiking, mountain biking, dancing…

Does your kids onine use worry you…or are you ok with it?

I’d love to hear from you…




  • I’m perfectly OK with it. They are 12 and 14 and big gamers. They will switch the games on when they wake up and switch them off when it’s bedtime. In the mean time I haul them out to eat, help hang out washing, wash uoop, cook sometimes, go to the shop, do something resembling school, and so on. I find that to be a very acceptble balance. Their games are important to them and they are good at them. Switching off would mean they lose things they’ve been working on for hours or days. I can hear them, they’re right next to me, I can also hear the people they are talking to within the game. Parents are scared of this stuff because they don’t understand it or won’t get involved, they see it as a waste of time. I KNOW what they are doing and it’s awesome, building so many skills by working with these other kids, such great negotiation skills, numeracy, literacy, incredible learning . I’m all for it, if the kids are happy I’m happy for them. Soon we will be up a mountain for 3 weeks, no connectivity. Life has phases and sesons and right now we’re in a gaming phase. Incidentally, I hear so much ignorance from one US based kid they talk to every day, and so much knowledge and worldlyness from them. D even quoted Gandhi at him this morning. LOVE IT!

    • Haha! Gandhi!
      Totally agree Alyson…as a parent you decide what is ok…or when too much is too much. I think it also depends on the nature of your children too…some get very withdrawn and moody playing a lot of games…then I think it can start having a negative impact. I know some adults who will miss work, social events etc because they don’t want to stop. It can be a great way to spend time though…especially for kids who live ruraly. My husband played a lot as a teenager as there wasn’t much else to do without a car!
      There’s definitely a ‘tut tut’ attitude when it comes to spending time on any device! I remember an older family member moaning that all kids do is sit on their computers…I don’t think this particular person had moved from the chair in front of the tv for 30 years!!!
      As long as our kids know that they can talk to us I think we’re good!

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