As children continue to find new ways to connect with each other on a range of devices and platforms it is increasingly important to help them make smarter and safer choices about who they talk to and what they share online, especially with an increase of groomers online.
Protecting your child
Children are now able to talk with anyone online, by using social media platforms, online games, and instant messaging apps, children are able to talk to anyone from around the world. Although this can be beneficial for helping them to not feel so isolated, it can also leave them vulnerable to being groomed.
Make sure your child is equipped with the right advice to help them make smarter choices online and minimise the risks of exposure to online grooming.
The best way to prevent it from happening is by making sure your child is well-informed, uses privacy settings on social networks, and knows that they can talk to you if they feel unsafe or worried. Teach your children how to stay safe online:
Keep personal information private
Private details which could identify them in the real world – name, age, gender, phone number, home address, school name, and photographs – should only ever be shared with people they know.
Look through privacy setting together and always assume that any default settings are public and should be changed accordingly. You can find some good advice on using privacy settings on social media apps on the InternetMatters website.
Reviewing apps, site, apps, and games that your children use
You will probably use social networks yourself, but you might want to know about new ones that your child is using or wants to use. Use them yourself and set up your own account so you can experience what your child might see.
Know who their friends are
Talk to them about being cautious about what they share with people online. Remind them that even though people they’ve met online might feel like friends they may not be who they say they are.
Stay safe online and in real life
Never arrange to meet someone they only know online without a parent present.
Encourage children to talk to someone
If something makes your child worried or uncomfortable online their best course of action is always to talk to an adult they trust. You can also direct them to organisations such as Childline.
There is a range of new apps and software that block, filter and monitor online behavior. You’ll need to decide as a family whether this is the right approach for you, taking into consideration your child’s age and maturity, and their need for privacy. You can find more info on these on the InternetMattters website
Negotiating the gaming world
In some games like Minecraft or Roblox people deliberately try to intimidate other players. In multi-player games where gamers talk to one another – you might find abusive language, harassment and there have been instances of grooming. It’s vital therefore that your child knows how to report abuse and talks to you if something is causing them concern.
What to do if your child is a victim of grooming
If your child is being groomed online, it can be a very distressing time for both of you. It’s important to seek support and guidance as soon as possible and reassure your child that there is help available. Here are a number of actions you can take to deal with the situation.
Find out who your child is talking to
Speak to your child about who they are communicating with, if you still feel uncomfortable, discuss it with their friends, teacher, or someone that might be able to tell you.
Give them advice about the dangers of sharing personal details with people they don’t know in real life and the potential risks of meeting up with someone in real life.
What are the warning signs that my child is being groomed online?
Signs of grooming are difficult to spot because sexual predators often tell children to not stay silent and not speak out about it. Share this Childline video aimed at young people to help them spot the signs of online grooming and what to do.
When to take immediate action
If you think your child – or another child – could be in immediate danger call the police immediately.
Call 612612 for non-emergencies or 999 if you are concerned that a child is in immediate danger.
If you wish to remain anonymous contact Crimestoppers 0800 555 111 or report online.
Report any child abuse images you find hosted by websites to the Internet Watch Foundation.
Helplines to support you and your child
If your child wants to talk to someone in confidence they can call Childline on 0800 1111 or The Mix on 0808 808 4994 (text 80849).
Parents can call the NSPCC’s free 24/7 adult helpline on 0808 800 5000, email firstname.lastname@example.org or text 88858. You can also contact the Stop it Now! helpline (0808 1000 900) where you can seek advice anonymously.
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