CHILDLINE: Speak openly to your children about how they are spending their time online

Primary school aged children are spending more time online unsupervised by parents and carers. Photo posed by model.Primary school aged children are spending more time online unsupervised by parents and carers. Photo posed by model.
Primary school aged children are spending more time online unsupervised by parents and carers. Photo posed by model.
You may have read in the news recently about a watchdog report that found children in primary schools are spending more time online unsupervised by parents and carers.

The Ofcom report found around a quarter of five-to-seven-year-olds now own a smartphone, three-quarters use a tablet computer, and more than a third use social media platforms like WhatsApp or TikTok.

While children can benefit from using the internet and various online platforms, this points to a failure by tech companies to enforce the age limits they set as safety guidelines.

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The NSPCC believes this puts children at risk of encountering age-inappropriate content and allowing them to be contacted by unknown adults, and our Childline counsellors speak to young people every day who have had bad experiences online.

Whether they have experienced online bullying, grooming or seen images or videos which are inappropriate for their age, these encounters can have a lasting impact, so it is important that parents and carers are fully aware of how children are spending their time online.

One of the most important things a parent or carer can do is to speak regularly and openly to their children about how they are spending their time online. Ask them about what apps are they using, what games they are playing, and who are they interacting with – are they chatting with friends from school, family, or people they met through a game.

Explore their games and apps together, try to get familiar with them, learn how to block or report unwanted or unpleasant contacts.

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Parents and carers should reassure them that they won’t be judged if they’ve experienced something upsetting, and that they can ask for help whenever they need it.

Remind them that even if they’re not ready to talk, they can always contact Childline through the website or on the phone where we can offer support and guidance.

Don’t wait until there’s a crisis. Asking these questions often and early and making it clear that they can speak up if they are ever upset by something they experience online makes it more likely they will when something is wrong.

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