'Innocent searches can sometimes lead to not so innocent results' - Helen Westerman

In this week's column, Helen Westerman speaks on the importance of parental controls.

Tuesday, 1st June 2021, 11:45 am
Updated Tuesday, 1st June 2021, 11:50 am
Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP (via Getty Images)

For our children spotting something online that is inappropriate can be worrying even extremely upsetting. The internet is a wonderful resource, the past 12 months have certainly shown that but the worry that our children could come across something they shouldn’t can understandably be a real concern for parents. It’s not always easy to stop your child from seeing something inappropriate online. Innocent searches can sometimes lead to not so innocent results. Or children might look for things because they are curious.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

But Net Aware, our website co created with O2, has put together some advice about this very subject. If your child does reveal that they have come across something that has upset or worried them online, reassure them they are not to blame or in any trouble. It is important to recognise how difficult it can be for children in these circumstances to open up. Reassure them that they’ve done the right thing by coming to you and ask them to tell you how they came across it. This will give you an opportunity to discuss what is, and isn’t appropriate for their age, and to discuss some of the apps, sites and games they can use.

This conversation will also help for the next piece of advice, and that is make sure to use the right parental controls. Most devices have parental controls that can help you manage how your child spends time online but these settings can also help you to block types of content or sites, set watershed times and give overall content blocking ratings. For example, you can set them to high if you have young children, but as they get older you might change it to medium or low. Remember to review the settings in place regularly to ensure that they are still working for your family.

My next piece of advice would be to make sure your child is confident in knowing to use the block and report features on their favourite app or game. And if the content warrants it or is illegal please be sure to report this to CEOP. If your child is feeling upset, worried or anxious about what they have seen online why not also point them in the direction of Childline’s website. It has some great resources such as our Calm Zone which is packed with tools and activities to cope with stress and anxiety. Plus, our moderated message boards are a safe way for children and young people to offer each other support and advice. And remember you can find more information about your child’s wider online world and the most popular apps, sites and games they’re using at www.net-aware.org.uk