Net Aware: our methodology How we created your guide to the social networks your kids use

Screenshot of Net Aware website homepageNet Aware is the O2 and NSPCC guide for parents to the most popular sites, apps and games that young people use. We've updated the content in April 2018, based on reviews from 2,059 young people and 2,049 parents.

Net Aware provides parents with the information they need to understand their child's online world and help keep them safe. Using Net Aware, parents can form their own views about whether an app, site or game is appropriate for their children.

We hope Net Aware can help give parents the confidence to have regular and informed conversations about what their children are doing online - just as they would about their day at school.

The social networks

To choose the featured social networks, apps and games for Net Aware, we looked at:

  • results from the 2017 Net Aware survey which asked young people to tell us about their favourite sites and any new sites they'd started using
  • contacts we received through Childline and Net Aware to see which sites, apps and games were being referenced most frequently
  • the most popular apps on the Google Play and iTunes Stores.

The reviewers

O2 and the NSPCC worked with YouGov to consult a representative group of 2,049 parents and guardians from across the UK. We asked them to review the most popular sites, apps and games children are using. Each parent was asked to review 1 app, and spend a minimum of 10 minutes exploring certain features of the app before completing the survey. Varying numbers of parents reviewed each site but each site featured on Net Aware received a minimum of 10 reviews.

We were unable to get parents' feedback for some platforms that received considerable numbers of reviews from children. Due to the popularity of these apps with young people, we felt they should be included in Net Aware. In these cases, the content on Net Aware is based solely on the young people's responses and we've highlighted this on the relevant pages.

Respondents to this survey were either parents or guardians but we refer to them as parents throughout the Net Aware site.

In total, we consulted 2,059 young people in schools across the UK and through Childline's Facebook community.

Young people were asked to complete a survey that included general questions about their online behaviour and knowledge as well as detailed reviews of the apps they use. Varying numbers of young people reviewed each site. Each site featured on Net Aware received a minimum of 10 reviews.

Following completion of the survey, O2 and the NSPCC gave the young people some online safety top tips and signposting to Childline for further support.

The questionnaire

We used national and international best practice in keeping children safe online to help us design the questionnaire that the parents completed through YouGov. We asked them to provide qualitative and quantitative information, based on their experience on the sites about:

  • signing up to the app, site or game
  • reporting and blocking features
  • privacy settings
  • safety and support
  • how appropriate the content is for children and young people.

Ease of signing up, ability to report and block inappropriate material, and the ability to modify privacy settings are all key elements of internationally recognised standards for internet safety.

The selection of quotes for Net Aware is based on the most common themes from the young people's and parents' responses.

We've tried to provide a balanced view of each site, selecting some positive and some negative quotes. This enables us to demonstrate the main things young people like, as well as the key risks parents should be aware of. Some sites didn't have sufficient, or any, appropriate respondent feedback we could use.

For the "What do I need to know" section of the guide, we looked at what children were telling us about the site in terms of its risks, as well as the things they like most about it.

We asked the parents’ and young people’s panels: "What do you think the minimum age should be?". We then calculated the average suggested age for each social network.

Parents' reviews

We asked parents and young people to tell us about the types of inappropriate content they had seen on the platform they reviewed. The categories were:

  • sexual
  • violence and hatred
  • bullying
  • suicide and self harm
  • drink, drugs and crime.

We asked members of the parents' panel to register on the social network using their own details when required. Some sites, apps and games use software that targets content based on the age of the individual on registration. It's therefore possible that some of the content the panel saw might not have been seen by a child or young person. However, we know from research, including Net Aware, that a large number of children and young people have created social networking profiles before they have reached the minimum age required by the site (Ofcom, 2017).


We combined the responses from the parents' and young people's reviews and categorised each response into low-, medium- and high-risk.

  • Low risk: less than 5% of respondents had seen that type of inappropriate content.
  • Medium-risk: between 5% and 25% of respondents had seen that type of inappropriate content.
  • High-risk: over 25% of respondents had seen that type of inappropriate content.

We looked at 4 sections of the parents' questionnaire:

  • signing up
  • reporting
  • privacy settings
  • safety and support.

We gave each question a score from 1 to 5. The higher the score, the better the site or service was at providing accessible safety features.

When parents felt the question wasn't applicable, we assigned a neutral score of 3. On this scale, it's also the value we assigned to the answer "neither easy nor difficult".

Total scores were rated as negative, neutral and positive. Scores:

  • less than 2.5 were rated as negative
  • between 2.5 and 3.5 inclusive were rated as neutral
  • above 3.5 were rated as a positive.


All product and application logos depicted on Net Aware are trademarks™ or registered ® trademarks of their respective holders. The NSPCC does not own any of the trademarks and use of them does not imply any affiliation with or endorsement by their holders.