Digital parenting tips

Do you know how to keep your child safe on the Internet? Here are some helpful tips for you to read. A really good tip is to think about how you guide your family in the real world and use this to help you in the digital world.


  • Try out the technologies your child enjoys - download some of their music and have a go at games they like

  • Talk to friends and family about how they manage their children's digital lives

  • Remind older siblings that websites they use may not be suitable for younger brothers and sisters

  • Make digital issues part of everyday conversation - talking about subjects like cyberbullying, sexting and copyright infringement

  • When you're talking about bullying, sex and relationships and other issues, don't forget to include the online aspects

  • Talk to your children about whether the issues they face are different online and offline - or how online and offline work together to complicate their lives

  • Don't be afraid to set boundaries and rules

  • Talk to your child about their online reputation


How old do you have to be online?

There are plenty of laws governing online behaviour – but because the issues are so new, people are often in the dark about exactly what is and isn’t legal when it comes to tech. Here’s our quick guide to the legal status of a few common (and sometimes confusing!) online activities. 


Streaming films

Downloading or streaming (ie. viewing content without downloading the file) of films and television shows can be legal or illegal, depending where you're getting the content from.Many sites allow people to view unauthorised video content, but it is illegal to host or link to this. In the UK, it’s been determined that sites like The Pirate Bay, one of the most notorious sources for unauthorised video, must be blocked by internet service providers.The law is more complicated when it comes to individual users who simply view unauthorised content (rather than copy, download or host it), but as a general rule of thumb it’s best to avoid using any sites which are operating illegally.There are legal services that allow you to view video content, including Netflix, Apple TV and Amazon Prime. Most charge for their services. 


Downloading music

Increasingly, young people are listening to music through streaming services such as Spotify. These come in free versions (in Spotify's case, with ads) and paid-for. With the premium, paid-for service, users can download playlists to listen to their playlists offline, although they have to go back on Spotify every 30 days. (So it's not the same as a normal download, where you own the song).


Downloading became commonplace before people started listening to music in the cloud (ie. streamed). A 2009 report* suggested that 95% of music available online was being downloaded illegally. So illegal music downloading was, and probably still is, the easiest way for average young people to break the law online. It was becoming next to impossible for the music industry to enforce the regulations.


Users who download copyrighted material without paying for it are unlikely to face legal consequences, especially where they're doing it only for personal use. That said, in principle, excessive downloaders could face warning letters, disconnection of internet service and potentially even lawsuits.


There are plenty of free and legal ways to listen to music online. There are some legal free download sites, like Free Music Archive; and and artists’ Facebook pages sometimes make free downloads available legally. Here’s a quick rundown of some places to legally access and download free music: 


Listening to music:

  • Spotify – a music streaming service. Paid accounts are ad-free, offer different levels of access (ie on mobile too) and offline listening (of up to 3,333 songs at once). The free version also offers a range of services.  

  • Rdio – the main competitor to Spotify. Many similar features, though a slightly smaller catalogue of songs (still more than 20 million!) No ads, but a limited number of streams per song per month. Prices for the paid-for versions are similar to Spotify's.

  • ·YouTube – online video giant YouTube works with music companies to host millions of free music videos. Other video sites, like Vevo, can also be good sources. 

  • Newer services like XBox Music and Sony's Music Unlimited are coming into the market - this is a fast-moving space.

Legal free downloads:

  • Amazon – Surprising as it may seem given their significant selection of music to purchase, Amazon also makes lots of tracks available to download free of charge.

  • – popular music recommendation service also provides a selection of free downloads.

  • Free Music Archive – one of the largest and most popular sources of free downloads, this site only hosts free content. 

  • Jamendo – using a Creative Commons license, Jamendo has a large collection of free music. 


Using VPNs

A VPN, or virtual private network, uses a public network (like the internet) to establish a private network for a particular group of users. This allows them secure access to share data. Lots of internet users use VPNs, and there are numerous free and paid-for options out there – examples include Private Internet Access, TorVPN, proXPN and WiTopia. There are plenty of legitimate uses of VPNs, especially for increased privacy and security. Some VPNs are free, some are paid, and lots of them have terms and conditions banning illegal activity. As a general rule, it is not illegal to use a VPN, so long as you’re not using it for unlawful activity. They can potentially, however, be used for illegal activities.


Viewing sexual images of minors, downloading or posting copyrighted content without permission and other unlawful activities are still illegal when a VPN is used. In fact, many VPNs state in their terms and conditions that they will cooperate with the authorities in the event of an investigation – and they will have access to information about your activity. If you break the law online, you should assume that there will be a record, regardless of whether a VPN is used. 


Copying content 

There’s a wealth of information available on the internet, which can be a valuable tool for learning. Copying someone else’s work in school has been against the rules for as long as teachers have been giving out homework, but the internet has made plagiarism even easier as the pool of content to copy has grown enormously. 


It’s not against the law for a student to use copyrighted material regardless of whether proper credit is given, as educational use is generally considered fair use. It is, however, against the rules of pretty much every school and college to pass off someone else’s work as your own (regardless of whether or not it is copyrighted). Although academic plagiarism is handled by schools rather than the police, it is still an extremely serious matter. Consequences can range from being failed for that piece of work to losing a place on a course. It’s important for students to remember that it’s not just word-for-word copying that counts as plagiarism – even paraphrasing or drawing heavily from someone else’s work can be an offence if it isn’t cited properly. Learning how to take useful notes and use common citation methods can often stop students getting into this kind of trouble.


Using someone else’s copyrighted work without permission can be a criminal offence if the intention is to use it to make a profit or in some other way that isn't fair use. This will rarely be a concern for students, but anyone using copyrighted work for purposes other than personal research or study should try to seek permission first. This applies to photography, film, music, text…best to think twice before using the results of a random Google image search in your work! 


Sharing explicit images of yourself 

If you are under the age of 18, it is a violation of UK law to distribute sexually explicit pictures of yourself. This is true regardless of the age of the person you are sending to, or how willing you are to send them – the pictures are still considered indecent images of a child. This means that if a young person engages in sexting with a friend, boyfriend, or girlfriend, all parties involved could find themselves in trouble with the law. It’s also important to remember that legal consequences aren’t the only possible undesirable result of sending or uploading compromising photos. Once you send a picture, it’s very difficult to control who sees it, and these images can easily find their way into the wrong hands. If, as a young person, you are feeling pressured to send explicit images, you should remember that both you and the recipient would be breaking the law. 


Sharing or viewing explicit images of others

If you’re planning to forward or distribute an explicit image of someone else and the person is under 18, this action would be a crime. If someone else sends a sexual picture of a young person to you and you view and keep it, you could also be in legal trouble. This is true regardless of whether you requested the image. 


Even if the person is an adult, however, there are some laws in place protecting them. If you got the image by hacking, if you’re using it to threaten or coerce the person, or if you post or repost it without their consent you are acting unlawfully. Currently, not many of these cases are prosecuted, but as increased attention is being focused on this issue after recent incidents involving celebrities, people should be extremely careful about sharing explicit images of others. 



Sending someone a virus to gain access to their private information or hacking into their computer through other means is illegal under the Computer Misuse Act. Because hacking is often used for fraudulent activity, or as part of a theft, these crimes are viewed very seriously and can have major consequences for offenders. Some computer hacking is also considered a form of terrorism – this applies only to computer hacking that is designed to influence the government, intimidate the public, or advance a political, religious or ideological cause. Naturally, these actions are taken extremely seriously. 


Logging into someone else’s account (Facebook, email, etc.)

We’ve all experienced the temptation to post a funny status or profile picture on someone else’s Facebook account, but a) it's very bad manners and b) can get you into legal hot water.


It’s not illegal to go on someone else’s account, but misusing another person’s sensitive information (such as religion, sexual orientation or political views, whether or not this information is accurate) was found to be unlawful in 2008. Passing yourself off as someone else and communicating with others on their behalf can expose you to lawsuits, as can any defamatory statements. It can also be unlawful to make libellous statements about others online, even when posting as yourself. 



With the increased prevalence of children using smartphones, computers, social media and other technology, some traditional playground bullying has moved online. Cyber bullying can be extremely damaging to both the victims and the perpetrators and can have lasting consequences. While bullying and cyberbullying are not specifically illegal, certain bullying activities are covered by other laws, including the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, The Malicious Communications Act 1988, Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003, and The Public Order Act 1986. All students have the right to a safe educational environment, so if cyberbullying interferes with a child’s education, it is likely that it will be taken very seriously.


*International Federation of the Phonographic Industry


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Three top tips for building your child’s online resilience

Recent research suggests that a lot of what we’ve been told about keeping children safe online may be wrong. In fact, rather than trying to limit young people's exposure to harmful content via filters and restrictions, we should be focusing on helping them build their skills, confidence and creativity.1 This will make it easier for them to manage their use (to switch off!) and to deal with risks. You can't shield your child from all risks online, any more than you can offline. But not all those risks have to turn into harm.To help the harm, young people need to be streetwise online. This is sometimes called digital literacy, and it has three elements:


  • technical literacy - knowing your way around technologies and having technical skills;

  • media literacy - understanding different platforms and being able to judge the quality and reliability of online sources;

  • social literacy - understanding online etiquette and the way things are done online.


As a parent, you may not be a coding whizz and you probably won't be up to speed with all the latest apps, but you may well be able to help your child understand the social side of things, the implications of their online behaviour (that what goes online stays online, for example, or that it's generally bad practice to say something to someone online that you wouldn't say to their face).


Here are our tips for helping your child to regulate their own use and take the more positive approach to the internet that seems to lead to greater safety:


  • Rather than making inflexible rules, have a conversation. It can be tempting to lay down hard and fast rules - to order your kids not to visit certain websites or to switch all screens by dinner time. But even a child who has no access to a computer at home may be able to surf the web on their phone, a friend’s tablet or laptop or even at school, and research shows that children who have very restrictive parents are generally less resilient than their peers. If you’d rather your child didn't use certain websites, the best approach is to explain why. Calmly and rationally discussing the risks of some online activities can help your children decide for themselves that uploading that picture or clicking on that link isn’t worth the risk. 

  • Create a supportive environment for exploration and learning. We know parental support can make a big difference in offline success, but it’s now seeming just as crucial to online resilience. Make it clear you support your child seeking out new opportunities. Encourage them to research topics that interest them, use the internet for homework and connect positively with friends and family via social media. 

  • Don’t be too hands-off. Giving your children freedom to explore online without excessive restrictions and monitoring is a good thing, but there’s no need to jump to the other extreme. Research shows that parental interest and involvement is positively correlated with online resilience, so don’t stay completely removed from your child’s online life. Ask them to show you their favourite websites, videos and apps, and talk to them about how they interact online. Take a real interest in what they're doing. It is children who feel unconditionally supported (but who have clear boundaries) who feel most secure and tend to be safer.


In other words, a lot of the best strategies for online parenting are very similar to those offline. Most parents are already trying to balance freedoms and rules, to support their children and get involved in their lives. Adding new technology into all that can seem scary, but don't worry too much about the tech; focusing on your child, being interested and supporting them works online too.  


Where to go for help with problems your child is having online


For young people:


Brook -
For their booklet on relationships, safety and risk online and offline -

CEOP (formerly the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre) -
CEOP’s Thinkuknow website has excellent information on relationships and the internet - (link is external)

Childline – 0800 1111 for immediate support
Information on relationships, rights and other issues faced by young people -

For parents:

The Parent Zone – information and help on a range of parenting topics, with special emphasis on digital parenting

CEOP – also has information for parents (link is external)





The Parent Zone


Where do I report if I'm worried about my child's safety online? or  What can you do if you're suspicious about someone your child is talking to online?

You probably have a pretty good sense when something isn't right with your child. But where do you go for help if it's their online life that's worrying you? What can you do if they're talking to somebody they don’t know in the real world; if an online ‘friend’ has asked them to share sexual images or to meet up? 


About CEOP

CEOP is the Child Protection Command of the National Crime Agency, set up solely to deal with online grooming, sexual abuse and sexual exploitation. CEOP is dedicated to protecting children and young people from sexual abuse and exploitation wherever it happens – whether online, or face-to-face.


CEOP’s Education Programme Thinkuknow (link is external) offers safety advice for children, young people, parents and carers, alongside training and support for large numbers of professionals (teachers, social workers, police officers etc.)


If you’re concerned that something might be happening with your child, you can report via the ClickCEOP button (link is external).


This might be someone in contact with your child who is:

·         chatting online about sex

·         asking them to do sexual things on a webcam

·         asking to meet up if they’ve only met them online

·         requesting sexual pictures

·         making them feel unsafe

·         forcing them into sexual activity


The safety of children and young people is paramount. When reports come in, they are reports are reviewed by a team of experienced social workers. As a Law Enforcement Agency, CEOP then works to safeguard children and locate and hold the perpetrators of these crimes to account.


If you're worried about someone your child is in contact with online,  it is important to report these concerns to ClickCEOP (link is external).


If your child is in immediate danger, please call 999.


Setting filters on YouTube

YouTube is incredibly popular with children of all ages. The YouTube SafetyMode enables you to choose whether to limit content on YouTube that might not be against YouTube Community Guidelines but even so may be unsuitable for your children.


When you opt into YouTube SafetyMode, mature content and age-restricted videos won't show up in search, related videos, playlists, shows and movies.


Here's how to do it: 

1.     Go to safety preferences – at the bottom of any page on YouTube - and click the grey ‘Safety’ button to open the preference setting.

2.    Turn SafetyMode ‘on’ or ‘off’ and click ‘Save’. If you turn it on and you have a YouTube account, you can sign in to your account and lock Safety Mode so that no one else can change the settings whenever YouTube is accessed from that browser. Turning on SafetyMode also activates Google SafeSearch.


Don’t forget:

  • To lock SafetyMode you need to have a You Tube or Google account.

  • Setting SafetyMode activates SafeSearch.

  • You need to be 13 to have a YouTube account.

  • Spend some time watching YouTube with your children and check out what they like.

  • Pay particular attention to what is shown in the related video menu when your children search for their favourite videos.


Setting filters on Google

Setting safe internet searches with Google SafeSearch


Searching the internet is a daily activity and Google is often the first port of call for homework, shopping and finding answers to any questions.  But it is important to remember that you, or your children, might come across inappropriate content during a search, even if they’re searching for something innocent.


Google SafeSearch is a feature which helps you keep adult content out of search results.


Follow these steps to set up Google SafeSearch

·         Open Search settings

o    Go to (link is external) and click on ‘Settings’ at the bottom of the page.

o    Click on ‘Search settings’ in the drop-down menu that appears.

·         Set SafeSearch filter

o    On the ‘Search settings’ page, tick the ‘filter explicit results’ box.

o    Click Save at the bottom of the page to save your SafeSearch settings.


Locking your SafeSearch filter level

If you have a Google account, you can lock SafeSearch on your family’s computer so that ‘filter explicit results’ is always in place and no-one except you can change the settings.


  • Click on ‘Lock SafeSearch’. If you’re not already signed in to your Google account, you’ll be asked to sign in.

  • Once you’re signed in, click on ‘Lock SafeSearch’. You’ll be prompted to re-enter your password. It might take a moment for the filters to be applied to all Google domains.  You’ll see a confirmation page once the lock is engaged.

  • When SafeSearch is locked in place, you’ll see a set of coloured balls at the top of all search pages.  If the coloured balls aren’t there, SafeSearch is no longer locked.


Don’t forget

  • To lock SafeSearch you need to have a Google account.

  • SafeSearch isn’t a guarantee that all inappropriate content will be filtered.

  • If you use more than one browser you will need to set SafeSearch on each one.

  • If you have different user profiles for everyone on the family computer or on different devices, you’ll need to set SafeSearch for each of them.

  • If you activate YouTube SafetyMode, SafeSearch is also activated.

  • Remind your children that not everything they see on the internet is reliable.