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With children of all ages being able to access the internet, it is important that you know how to keep your child safe online.

Although the internet lets children connect with friends and learn new things, there are also dangers to going online, and children can be particularly vulnerable. Reports of online child sexual abuse crimes to police have jumped by over 80% in the last three years. 

Below we offer some key tips on how to make sure your child enjoys the internet safely.

Picture of mother and child sitting down chatting with message beside it which reads "Talk to your child without judgement"
Picture of mother and child sitting down chatting with message beside it which reads "Talk to your child without judgement"

Talk to your child without judgment

Talking to your child is one of the best ways to keep them safe online. Simply having open conversations without judgment about the online world they are engaged in will ensure that your child feels confident they can come to you - especially if they make a mistake or have a problem online.

Ask who they play with online or who they meet and talk to. You could try using the WWW method created by ParentZone to start a conversation.

  • What are you doing online? (What activities do you like?)
  • Where are you going online? (What websites, what apps?)
  • Who are you talking to online? (Friends? Multiplayer chat session with strangers?)
  • When are you going online? (With the babysitter, grandparents, on playdates?)
a games controller and a graduation cap with copy beside it reading "Learn about the games your child likes to play online"
a games controller and a graduation cap with copy beside it reading "Learn about the games your child likes to play online"

Learn about the games your child likes to play online

We encourage parents to participate in some of the games their child likes to play online. Playing games together is a great way to build trust and makes it easier for parents to start those constructive conversations with their child about what they are doing, who they are talking with online and importantly who is talking to them.

Pay close attention to the type of language that your child is using or how your child communicates online. Children often use shortened versions of words or acronyms of phrases - for example 'LOL' for ‘laughing out loud’.

Remind your child how important it is to tell a trusted adult if something happens online that makes them feel uncomfortable or worried. Show them how to report abusive or anti-social behaviour on the app or game.

Opened laptop with 2 circles on the screen - 12+ and 18+ with copy beside the laptop which reads "Check the games content and age suitability"
Opened laptop with 2 circles on the screen - 12+ and 18+ with copy beside the laptop which reads "Check the games content and age suitability"

Check the game's content and or age suitability

Pan European Game Information (PEGI) age ratings and content icons are there to help you decide what games are suitable for your child. The content icons indicate game content such as bad language, violence, references to drugs or sex, and whether the game has an online mode.

You can also consider using parental controls on devices to minimise the risk of your child seeing something upsetting. Depending on the device, you might also be able to control whether your child can download or purchasing new apps.

Be mindful that device controls will not filter out specific types of content when browsing the internet. For example, on YouTube you will need to adjust the parental controls separately in the settings of the app or browser.

Drawing imagery of hand holding mobile with call 101 or 999 on screen.  Message beside it is "How do i report?  If you are concerned that a child is being groomed online, please contact police on 101 or dial 999 in an emergency
Drawing imagery of hand holding mobile with call 101 or 999 on screen. Message beside it is "How do i report? If you are concerned that a child is being groomed online, please contact police on 101 or dial 999 in an emergency

How do I make a report to police?

If you are worried that a child is being groomed in a game, or on any other online platform you should seek support.

You can contact police on 101 or dial 999 in an emergency.

Police Service of Northern Ireland's Child Internet Protection Team

The Police Service of Northern Ireland’s Child Internet Protection Team investigate the most serious and complex cases of online child abuse. Last year, the team were involved in 125 searches and made 52 arrests for offences including possession, making and distributing indecent images and sexual communication with a child.