Starting the conversation:
Find a good time and place. Try to choose a good moment. Pick an opportunity when you know you’re not going to be interrupted and you are both going to feel comfortable and have enough time – without turning it into one of those ‘special talks’ moments.
Think about how you are going to introduce the subject. You could mention a recent news story or just explain why you would like to talk to them about something. Try to be clear. It’s no good having a difficult conversation if at the end of it they don’t really understand what you wanted to talk to them about.
Explain to them why you are worried. Your child might think that you are getting worried for no good reason, but if you explain why something is troubling you they will understand why you want to talk to them. Tell them if it is something you’ve noticed in their behaviour or maybe something you have read about or seen their friends doing. Help them to understand your worries so that together you can work them out.
Let them talk. It’s hard sometimes when a child doesn’t want to open up. Asking them a question like ‘how are things going’ and remembering to give them time to answer will help. It’s tempting to keep talking at them to fill the space – try not to.
Listen more than you talk. A conversation has to have two people in it. It’s important you listen to them and that you explain you’d like them to listen to you. Talking at them is never going to work.
Be loving and supportive. The most difficult conversations can be made easier if your child understands that you care about them and whatever the outcome you will love them just as much.
If your child tells you something that worries you:
Take a break. If your child is telling you things that worry you it is really important to stay calm and not to react immediately. Let them tell you what’s going on and then decide together how you're going to deal with it.
Get help together. If your child tells you something which means they could be in danger you must report this to the relevant organisations. Try to agree to do this together. Don't take over unless you think that is your only option.
Get support for yourself. Your focus is going to be on looking after your child but remember to look after yourself as well and get support from your family and friends. You can get further advice from Thinkuknow , Parent Zone and Parent Info, and there are other organisations that can help you and your child.
What if your child doesn’t want to talk?
If your child doesn’t want to talk to you and you are still really worried don’t give up. Try again another time or find a different way to start the conversation. Be patient and make sure they know where they can go themselves for support on difficult issues. You might want to talk to their teacher to see if they share your concerns – whatever you decide be ready when your child decides they want to talk to you.
If you have concerns about an adult your child is in contact with on or offline, you can report these concerns to CEOP.
If you are concerned your child is in immediate danger, call 999.
I’m worried my child might see something inappropriate online
There's no watershed, 'top shelf' or ID required online but that doesn't mean you can't protect your child from adult content. Find out how to help them navigate the web safely.
The internet is a public and open place, one where anybody can post and share content. This is part of the fun but it does mean that your child might see something that is intended for adults which might confuse or upset them. This could be violent or sexual content, extreme opinion or inappropriate advertising.
No matter how young your child is, if they are using the internet you will need to have the conversation with them about ‘things they might see’ online.
You can’t always be there when your child is using internet enabled devices - even though it is advisable as much as possible when your child is at primary age. So it is important that your child knows that they can come to you if something online confuses or upsets them.
Children often tell us that a reason they don’t tell a parent or carer when something goes wrong or upsets them online is because they are worried the adult will over react and take their technology away from them.
Inappropriate can mean different things to different people, from swear words to pornographic images or videos, and what is inappropriate for your child will also change as they grow and develop.
Every household will have different ideas on what’s appropriate for their child, so discuss this as a family and give your child age appropriate examples.
It is important to explain, especially to younger children, what is meant by ‘inappropriate’ using language they will understand.
Remember, no matter what you've told them, as we all were as children, your child will be curious as they grow. They might search for content they are too embarrassed to talk to you about, don’t understand or think they'll find funny.
Talk to them about what they might see if they were to type the wrong words or actively look for content on a search engine like Google. Make sure they know that whatever they have seen, if it's upset them or raised questions that they can always come to you.
What can you do to protect them?
As well as having the all-important conversation, there are some technical (and simple) things you can do to limit what they see:
Set Parental Controls. Parental Controls software will enable you to filter out pornography and other inappropriate content. You can also use it to set time limits for using the internet and apply age restrictions for games they play. Most major Internet Service Providers, like Talk Talk, Sky, BT and Virgin Media, provide free parental controls, as do most devices and games consoles. Find out more about setting them up - it isn't as difficult as you might think!
Set the search engine (e.g. Google, Bing, etc.) they use to a ‘safe’ mode. This means that the search engine will look to block any obvious adult content and not provide it in search results.
YouTube is particularly popular with primary aged children but think about the range of content they can be exposed to on it. Distressing news stories and other adult content will often appear on YouTube so don’t use YouTube as a TV. It is all too easy for children to click on related videos and end up watching something more adult so make sure you supervise younger children using it. It is also advisable that you set YouTube search to ‘safe mode’. You can find out how in the YouTube safety centre.
Remember, parental controls and filters are just tools. They are not 100% accurate and are no substitute for open and honest conversations with your child.