Want to talk about it? Making space for conversations about life online Safer Internet Day 2023

Safer Internet Day 2023 is on Tuesday 7 February 2023.

Across the UK, we're celebrating Safer Internet Day by putting children and young people's voices at the heart of what we are doing and encouraging them to shape the online safety support that they receive.

Practical tips for starting a conversation about life online

Be positive and open minded about the internet

It’s important to recognise the exciting opportunities that going online can offer children and young people.

Although your children may use the internet differently to you, their experiences are still significant.

If your child mentions something you haven’t heard of, ask them to show you, or explain in more detail, or you may need to do your own research.

Try to keep conversations broad, and value their opinions when they’re talking about what they enjoy doing, to show that you are interested in all aspects of their online world.

Talk early and often

The most effective way to deal with any online issue is to make conversations about the internet a part of your everyday routine.

Talking openly about life online from an early age, can be a helpful bridge to sharing safety messages and addressing more difficult conversations later; it also shows your child that you are someone who knows about the internet and can help them.

Create a safe space for conversations

Look for opportunities to talk together. Sometimes, talking face-to-face can feel difficult, so talking alongside each other when out for a walk, or travelling in the car for example, are options that might make it easier.

The environment needs to be right; free from distractions, so that your child has your undivided attention. Remind them often that they can talk to you about anything, no matter how difficult, and that they will not be judged or blamed.

Your child might not be ready to talk about something straight away, so show them that you are there to listen whenever they are ready.

Keep it relevant

As they get older, your children will use technology differently from when they first went online. Their knowledge and understanding will grow too, as will the challenges they may face on the internet.

To get a sense of how much they know and what support they still need, ask open-ended questions to let your child lead the conversations you have.

There are appropriate ways to approach all online safety topics with different ages. For example, with a teenager, nude images can be spoken about in wider conversations around consent and healthy relationships.

For younger children, you could discuss what types of images are okay to share online, and what areas of our bodies are private.

Be proactive

Working together to create an agreement, outlining how the internet and technology will be used within the family, is a useful way to set clear expectations and boundaries for your children.

You might include time spent online; who your children can communicate with; appropriate apps and games; and why safety tools are helpful to block and report inappropriate content.

Ask your child what they would do if something went wrong online and they needed help and reinforce the importance of telling an adult as soon as anything happens that makes them feel upset, worried, or uncomfortable in any way.

How to talk about difficult topics

  • Plan what you want to say in advance and seek support and information if needed so that you feel prepared.
  • Choose a moment when there are no other distractions, and you are not rushed for time but acknowledge that they might not feel ready to speak straight away.
  • Consider the best approach to anticipate how your child might react. You might want to directly explain the concerns that led to the conversation or feel that asking some broader questions might be more suitable in the first instance.
  • Give your child time to process what you are saying and share their thoughts, without interruption or blame. Listen carefully to any confusion or concerns.
  • Share your own experiences if you can. Were you ever in a similar situation and how was it resolved?
  • Reassure them you are always there to help and even if you don’t know the answers, you can find these out together.
  • Get support quickly if they need it. This might be from family, friends, your child’s school or other agencies.

My child has said something worrying – what do I do?

  • Let them explain in their own words what has happened.
  • Remain composed. If you are feeling shocked, angry, or worried, it’s likely that your child is feeling worse, but reacting that way may close the conversation and lead your child to believe that they are to blame.
  • Acknowledge the challenges they have overcome and let them know that they’ve done the right thing by telling you.
  • Be honest. It’s okay if you are unsure what to do next, the important thing is to let your child know you are there for them. There is a lot of further support out there to help you decide on your next steps.
  • Save the evidence wherever possible. You may be able to report what has happened to the online service being used when the incident occurred. Evidence may include screen shots taken on a laptop or mobile device, emails, texts, or online conversation histories.
  • Make a report as soon as possible. Knowing who to report to is a useful step to resolving many issues, so try to familiarise yourself with the reporting, blocking or moderating settings available on the services your child is using. Depending on what has happened, it might be necessary to let your child’s school know too, or other agencies such as the police.

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