Inappropriate and harmful content 

Just as you might not want your child to watch a particular TV programme or film or read a certain magazine because it’s meant for adults, you might be concerned about things they could see on the internet, their mobile or a games console.

This might include violent or pornographic images, gambling websites, chat rooms where there is no adult supervision (called unmoderated chat rooms), or video-sharing websites and forums that encourage anti-social or reckless behaviour, such as substance abuse or vandalism. The content in question might not be illegal but it could be upsetting, disturbing or just generally unsuitable for your son or daughter to see.

What do I need to know about inappropriate and harmful content? 

It’s essential that you know what kind of content is available on the internet and other devices, such as mobiles and games consoles, and that you talk to your child about what’s appropriate for their particular age and maturity and what isn’t.

They might come across unsuitable or upsetting content inadvertently via a search engine or by clicking on a link or pop-up or mistyping a website address; they might be upset by a comment on a social networking site that they use regularly; or they might actively look for pornography or other adult content out of curiosity.

According to EU Kids Online, “There are…gender differences in risk: Boys appear more likely to seek out offensive or violent content, to access pornographic content or be sent links to pornographic websites; girls appear more likely to be upset by offensive, violent and pornographic material…"

 

It therefore pays to have Parental Controls and Safe Search in place to help your child access age-appropriate content online, especially for younger children. Many of the leading internet, mobile and games providers offer them, helping you to block access to 18-rated content for younger users.

In addition, leading social networking services like Facebook have codes of conduct and Community Guidelines that do not allow inappropriate content, such as obscene images or offensive messages, to be posted by their members. These sites will take the appropriate action if someone makes a complaint, such as taking down inappropriate content and suspending members.

What action can I take? 

You’ve always relied on built-in tools to help protect your child from unsuitable content in other media (eg TV watersheds and film ratings) so make the most of online tools like Parental Controls and Safe Search based on your child’s age and maturity – but remember that they might not be 100% effective and they aren’t a substitute for parental supervision

Don’t just use Parental Controls on your computer – you can set them up on all sorts of digital devices (eg games consoles and mobiles)

Explore the internet with your child and agree which websites are the most appropriate for them to use. Pay special attention to search engines as they’re often the first port of call for children

Discuss the importance of age limits on video-sharing websites like YouTube – they’re there to help protect children from unsuitable content

Make the most of family filters on video-sharing websites, such as Safety Mode on YouTube

Explain why they shouldn’t click on links or open attachments sent by people they don’t know or respond to surveys or questionnaires

Your son or daughter might be worried they’ll get into trouble if they tell you they’ve come across something that has upset or disturbed them online, so make internet safety part of your everyday conversations. Make sure they know they can talk to you at any time and explain that you won’t take their internet access, mobile or games console away

If your child uses the computer at friends’ houses, talk to the friends’ parents and agree what’s acceptable when it comes to viewing Web content, especially for younger children

Read our articles about illegal content and misleading content so you can also talk to your child about this

If you’re worried that something your child has seen is not just inappropriate but could be illegal, report it to your internet, mobile or games provider (go to the ‘Help’ or ‘Safety’ areas on their website to find out how) and to the relevant hotline in your country – such as the Internet Watch Foundation in the UK

Give your son or daughter the contact details for a helpline, such as Childline in the UK, if you think they’d like to speak to someone in confidence

Where can I go for more information and support?