How you can keep young people safer online over the Christmas period ... and beyond!

No doubt you’ll be working with a young person who has asked for some form of technology that links to the internet for Christmas, be it a new smartphone, tablet or games console.

While their device will provide them with hours of entertainment, it can also present new risks. Here are 4 steps you can take to make sure that young people are safer online over the Christmas period and beyond.

1. Remind parents and carers to set up 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 this Thinkuknow article.

Let them know that they’ll find plenty of further advice and support on how to keep their child safe online on our parents website.

2. Start a conversation about communicating safely online

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

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

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

3. 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.
  • Remind them that they can contact Childline if they have any other worries, for example if they are being bullied.

Reinforce this by sending this information out to parents and carers too.

4. Plan education opportunities for the new year

Build on this conversation and develop their resilience by using Thinkuknow resources to deliver online safety education in the new year. Some resources you could consider include:

- Jessie & Friends– 3 animated films for 4-7s with session plans, activities and storybooks

- Play Like Share – 3 animated films for 8-10s with session plans and activities

- Band Runner game for 8-10s, based on Play Like Share

- Thinkuknow Toolkit – activities for young people aged 11 and over

- #LiveSkills – resources for 8-18s focused on live streaming

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.