How you can help children stay safer online over the winter break and beyond!

You’re likely to be working with a child or young person who has asked for some form of internet-enabled tech for Christmas. Be it a new smartphone, tablet or the latest games console.

While their device will provide them with hours of entertainment and the opportunity to connect with family and friends they can't meet with face-to-face, it can also present new risks.

Here are 4 steps you can take to help them stay safer online over the winter break and beyond.

1. Start a conversation about communicating safely online

A new device enables children and young people to access new communities through online gaming and social media.

If you can, make time before the end of term to start a conversation with children and young people about how they use online technology and what it means to them. Use this opportunity to remind them of some key strategies for safer internet use, such as:

  • being careful with what they share, including images, videos and personal information
  • taking control of who sees what they post by using privacy settings
  • being mindful of who they are chatting to and gaming with – do they really know and trust them? If not, they shouldn’t  share personal details or agree to meet them in other online spaces.

2. Remind young people how to report anything worrying

It’s important that young people know where to go if they come across something online that worries them or makes them feel uncomfortable – especially as contact with trusted sources of support may not be available over the holidays.

You should:

  • help them to identify a trusted adult that they can approach during the holiday period, and encourage them to the speak to the adult immediately if they have any concerns.
  • talk them through how they can make a report to CEOP if something has happened to them online or they’re worried about what a friend is doing online and they feel they can’t tell a trusted adult
  • remind them that they can contact Childline if they have any other worries, for example if they are being bullied. They can also use the Internet Watch Foundation and Childline’s Report Remove tool to report a nude image or video of themselves that’s been shared online

Reinforce this by sending this information out to parents and carers too. Consider using the following resources as a starting point:

A parent's guide to being social online this December

Parents and carers presentations (primary and secondary)

Short videos for parents and carers

3. Talk to parents and carers about parental controls

Parental controls can be a great tool to help protect young people online, and should be installed on any new device that they use.

Give parents and carers the information they need to use these controls effectively by signposting them to our parental controls article.

Remind them that controls are not a single solution to staying safe online and ongoing conversations with their child are just as important.

4. Plan learning opportunities for the new year

Build on these conversations and develop their skills and knowledge by using the following resources to deliver online safety education in the new year:

Jessie & Friends: 3 animated films for 4 to 7 year olds with session plans, activities and storybooks

Play Like Share: 3 animated films for 8 to 10s with session plans and activities

#LiveSkills: resources for 8 to 18s on live streaming

Send me a pic?: 3 session plans and film clips for 12 to 14s on consensual and non-consensual image sharing

Online blackmail: a session plan and worksheets for 15 to 18s

If you’re struggling for time…

Use our online safety toolkits to deliver 15-minute activities on themes such as live streaming, gaming, and online friendships.

They will help children and young people to understand healthy and unhealthy behaviours within friendships and relationships, respond safely to manipulative or pressurising behaviour, and understand the importance of seeking help from a trusted adult when they need it.

For children learning at home…

Share our #OnlineSafetyAtHome packs with parents and carers for 15-minute activities that can be done at home. They can also access conversation starters and online safety actions that families can take.

Provide a balanced view

Throughout, remember that your focus shouldn’t be to put young people off using their new device or encourage parents not to buy it in the first place.

Scaremongering is not effective and makes young people far less likely to ask you for help if they encounter a threat online.

Aim to provide a balanced view that encourages them to share their thoughts and engage with new ideas about staying safe.