What to do if your child gets into trouble online

It’s easy for anyone to slip up when doing something online. But when your child is involved, there are ways you can ensure that the situation is handled properly.

No matter what protective measures you use on your computers, there’s always the possibility that your child could do something online that puts them at risk.

They might share some personal information on Facebook with the wrong person, tweet something that’s inappropriate or be accused of cyber-bullying someone – even if they didn’t purposefully do anything harmful.

[Read more: Cyberbullying - a guide to dealing with it online]

Dealing with these kinds of situations can be difficult even if you’re a technology literate parent – not least because you may not find out about them until long after the event. There’s not much you can do about that, of course – other than aim for an open and trusting relationship with your child, particularly when it comes to computer use. 

But if you do discover your child has been up to something they shouldn’t online, whether intentional or not, there are some simple steps you can take to deal with the situation without making it worse.

1. Stay calm

If your child tells you something has happened online that they’re worried about, try not to react like an angry parent. As difficult as it might be, you need to stay calm and instead praise them for having the courage to talk to you about it. 

2. Listen to what they tell you

Let your child explain what’s happened in their own time, in their own words.. Try to be open and honest when you do talk to them – even if they tell you things you’d rather not hear.

3: Learn about it

If your child is facing an issue you don't understand, do some research to find out. Internet Matters is a great place to start.

4. Don’t be judgmental

It may be difficult for both them and you to talk about something that’s highly personal, or something they’re ashamed of doing, but it will be easier if you can maintain an open mind.

5. Offer your help

It’s vital that they know you’re there to support them and help in any way you can. Don’t be too hasty, though. Consider limiting rather than banning access to technology until the situation has been addressed and don’t contact anyone else who might be involved until you’ve sought professional help – particularly if you suspect a law may have been broken.

[Read more: Screen time - advice for parents]

Mum talking to boy by laptop

Who to contact if your child gets in trouble online

There are several organisations that offer free advice and information for children in difficult situations:

  • ChildLine - free confidential helpline for children and young people Call ChildLine on 0800 1111 or visit the website.
  • Anti-Bullying Alliance website  - offers specific advice for parents and areas about bulling.
  • Family Lives - national charity working for and with parents. Call the helpline on 0808 800 2222 or visit the website.
  • Kidscape provides individuals and organisations with the practical skills and resources to keep children safe from harm.
  • Children’s Legal Centre operates the Child Law Advice Line: impartial legal advice on all aspects of English law affecting children.
  • YoungMinds offers free confidential online and telephone support for any for those worried about the emotional, mental health or behavioural problems
  • Contact a Family -provides advice and support for families in the UK with disabled children. Call the helpline on 0808 808 3555 or visit the website.

For a comprehensive and easy-to-use resource of the most up-to-date information for keeping your child safe online, visit the website Internet Matters.

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