Parents missing vital information in online safety talks with children

Primary school children mark privacy as top concern in online safety

We asked more than 600 primary school children what information they needed to stay safe online. More than 80% said online privacy settings on mobile apps and games was a topic they thought their parents should cover when talking about online safety.

Just over half (54%) opted for location settings, which can prevent sex offenders tracking children1.

However, although 8 out of 10 parents told us in a YouGov poll that they knew what to say to their child to keep them safe online, only 28% had actually mentioned privacy settings to them and just 20% discussed location settings2.


Net Aware provides tools to tackle online safety concerns

We've provided parents with the key tools needed to tackle issues surrounding online safety with our recently updated Net Aware guide, which includes information about popular social media sites and online platforms.

This week, 12 new sites have been added to the guide including Tapatalk and Pheed, which many parents may not be familiar with, plus well-known games like Call of Duty that allows users to chat online. 

The latest websites, apps and games featured in Net Aware were reviewed by a panel of parents and all were rated poorly in terms of how easy it was to change privacy settings, report concerns about abuse or bullying, and find safety advice3.

Net Aware now covers a total of 60 social networking sites, apps and games popular with children and is free to access.

Talking to children is key

Boys playing on iPad

Claire Lilley Head of Child Safety Online said

"If parents aren't talking to children about things like privacy settings on social networking sites it can leave them at rick of online grooming.

"We've seen horrendous cases where offenders take a scattergun approach, targeting hundreds of children at a time online, often posing as another young person"
Claire Lilley / Head of Child Safety, NSPCC

"It's important parents have the knowledge to talk in detail with children about safety settings.

"Minecraft is one game that is much safer for children once the privacy settings have been adjusted. Our updated Net Aware guide is packed with straightforward advice that will help parents stay up-to-date with their children's digital lives."

Helping parents have simple conversations

Following the launch of our online safety campaign in January, nearly 400,000 parents have spoken to their children about staying safe online4.

However, it seems that many parents have gaps in their online knowledge and don't talk about the right issues with their children.

For example, Tinder, Facebook Messenger, Yik Yak and Snapchat were all rated as risky by children, with the main worry being talking to strangers. However, for the same sites the majority of parents did not recognise that the sites could enable adults to contact children. 

Parents tend to worry more about sexual or violent content or bad language. 

Call for change

We're calling for social networking sites, apps and games used by children to provide easy ways for children and parents to report abuse, attempts at grooming or concerns about content.

We want to see all online accounts for under-16s equipped with the ability to:

  • block messages from strangers.
  • prevent users making their location or contact details public.
  • set profiles as private by default on sign-up.
  • alert children to the risks if they choose to make their profile public.


  1. 1. Between Monday 13 April and Thursday 23 April the NSPCC’s ChildLine Schools Service asked 667 children aged 9-12 to complete a survey following a visit to their school to talk about keeping themselves safe from abuse. The full survey questions were:

    a.) Have your parents/carers spoken to you about socialising safely online?

    b.) After your parents/carers spoke to you did you do anything different to keep yourself more safe online? (Y/N)

    c.) Which of these topics do you think adults/teachers should speak to young people about to keep them safe online (please select any of the following options):

    • Sharing personal information online
    • Speaking to strangers online
    • Using webcams and video chat
    • Keeping your settings secure and private
    • Using location settings that show where you are on games or apps
    • Cyber bullying
    • The possibility of people using fake online accounts or hacking your account
    • Playing games against strangers online
    • Don’t know
    • None of the above

    d.) Do you think parents/carers know enough about the online world to give you advice about staying safe? (Y/N)

  2. 2.) All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,247 adults, of which 155 were parents of children aged 8 to 12. Fieldwork was undertaken between 22nd - 23rd December 2014. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+). Parents were asked:

    For the following question, we would like you to think about the discussion(s) you have had with your child aged 8 to 12 about how to keep themselves safe online. Which, if any, of the following online safety topics have you ever discussed in detail with this child? (Please select all that apply)

    • When it is and isn’t appropriate to share or disclose personal information online
    • Whether or not it is appropriate to have contact with people that they have only ever met online
    • Appropriate usage of webcams or video chat
    • Understanding the risks around engaging in conversations of a sexual nature or “sexting” (including sending sexual images)
    • The appropriate age to join different websites/ apps/ games which have an interactive or social element
    • How to use privacy settings and safety features of websites (i.e. including blocking/ reporting other users)
    • How to use/ deactivate location settings or GPS (e.g. on websites, apps, games etc.)
    • Watching or searching for (including accidentally) age-inappropriate content
    • Online bullying or “cyber bullying”
    • The possibility of other people using fake online accounts or hacking your child's online account
    • None of these / Don’t know/ can’t recall
  3. 3.) During March 2015 the NSPCC asked a panel of Mumsnet members to rate twelve popular social networking sites, apps and games against a range of criteria, including whether unsuitable content could be easily found, how easy it was to find and adjust privacy settings, and how to report concerns. The additional websites, apps and games reviewed and rated by the Mumsnet panel for the latest Net Aware guide were:

    • Bebo
    • Boom beach
    • Call of Duty
    • Clash of Clans
    • Game of War
    • Instamessage
    • Monopoly
    • Pheed
    • Sim City
    • Soundcloud
    • Tapatalk
    • We Heart it
  4. 4.) Nearly 400,000 parents with children 8 – 12, talked to their child after viewing the NSPCC Share Aware campaign. This was calculated by: there are 5,356,000 UK households with Children 8-12. YouGov research tells us that 23% of parents with children in this age group are aware of the campaign (=1,231,880) and 31% (YouGov research) of those who can recall the campaign talked to their child(ren) about keeping themselves safe online: 31% of 1,231,880 = 381,882.