Keeping your child safe from extremists online is much like protecting them from other online threats.
Most children and young people spend a lot of time online, and it’s important to start talking to your child about keeping safe at an early age. It is easier to talk about online safety little and often, rather than trying to cover everything at once. As your children get older, and as technology changes, make sure you keep discussing what they are doing online and how to stay safe. Ask your child to show you their favourite things to do online, and show an interest in what they care about, just as you would offline. This lets you support and encourage them while learning what they know.
Children don’t think of people they’ve met online through social networking and online games as strangers – they’re just online friends – so it’s important to keep an eye on who your child is talking to. You could ask them how they decide who to become friends with online, who they know with the most online friends, and how they can know so many people. Explain to your child that it is easy for people to lie about themselves online. You could also become friends with your child online so you can see their profile and posts but your child may not want to ‘friend’ you, especially as they get older. You might agree that your child will ‘friend’ a trusted adult, such as an aunt or uncle, on their social networks or online games so they can let you know if there’s anything worrying on your child’s profile.
It is useful to agree on some ground rules together. These will depend on your child’s age and what you feel is right for them, but you might want to consider the amount of time they can spend online, the websites they can visit and the activities they can take part in.
Internet service providers (ISPs) such as Virgin Media, TalkTalk, Sky or BT, provide parental controls to help you filter or restrict what your child can see online. Laptops, phones, tablets, game consoles and other devices that connect to the internet have settings to activate parental controls and there are free software packages that can help you filter, restrict or monitor what your child can access.
Check the privacy settings on any online accounts your child has, such as Facebook or Instagram, and remind them to keep their personal information private. Talk to your child about what to do if they see content that worries or upsets them, or if they are contacted by someone who makes them feel anxious or uncomfortable. Many websites have tools to report abuse – make sure they know about these too.
There are some great websites to help parents learn more about child online safety, such as Internet Matters, Safer Internet and Childnet. If you are ever concerned about something you can also call the NSPCC’s online safety helpline on 0808 800 5002.