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10 April 2017

NSPCC Northern Ireland gives parents vital tools to keep children safe online over the Easter holidays

With schools now finishing for the Easter holidays, the NSPCC in Northern Ireland is urging children and young people to keep themselves safe when online.

Online safety is one of the major 21st century child protection challenges and we know the internet is used as a gateway by abusers to commit hundreds of offences against children each year. But a recent survey carried out for the NSPCC found that 59% of adults in Northern Ireland did not know that social media sites like Facebook require users to be aged 13 or over. And more than one in five [22%] thought there were no age requirements at all.

The NSPCC is encouraging parents speak to their children about the risks they could face online so they know how to stay safe.

The charity also has a partnership with O2, which aims to equip parents with the knowledge they need to help keep their children safe in the evolving online world. As part of the partnership, the NSPCC and O2 have run free workshops across Northern Ireland to help parents start the conversation of online safety with their children.

Margaret Gallagher, Campaigns Manager at NSPCC Northern Ireland, said:

“Over the Easter holidays, the online world can provide many benefits for children. It gives them instant access to a world of information and provides a connection to friends and family. However, it is not without risks and often parents can find it hard to keep track of what their children are doing online.

“With the reduction of the use of desktop computers and the use of portable devices like tablets and smart phones growing steadily, parents may not know what their children are exposed to, because they can be in their bedrooms or out of the home.”

In 2015/16 NSPCC’s ChildLine service had 318 counselling sessions with young people from Northern Ireland who were concerned about bullying and online bullying. This is no longer just a school issue; it follows children home with social media, meaning they can be constantly at risk of bullying online.

Margaret added:

“Parents need to start conversations with their children about what they are doing online. We have found that opening that dialogue and regularly talking to your child is the best way to keep them safe, and setting some boundaries about what they view online can create a good level of trust.

“If parents aren’t sure how to start the conversation, there are lots of online tools on the NSPCC website to give them the knowledge and confidence to talk about can be an often overwhelming topic.”

The NSPCC has the following tips which can help start the conversation;

1. Have the conversation early and often – start talking to your children at an early age and keep talking as they get older and technology changes. Little and often is key, don’t try and cover too much at once.
2. Explore sites and apps together – this will give you a much better idea of what they are looking at and enable you to encourage and support them.
3. Know who your child is talking to online – there, children often don’t see people as strangers, but as online friends. Make sure you know who they are friends with online, and explain that it’s easy for people to lie about themselves.
4. Set some boundaries - set some rules, including when and where they can go online, what websites they can visit and how they share images.
5. Make sure the content is age appropriate - ensure your child is using sites right for their ages, and don’t feel pressured into signing up to websites they are too young for. The age limits are there for a reason.
6. Use parental controls - Set up parental controls to stop children from seeing unsuitable or harmful content online.
7. Check they know how to use privacy settings and reporting tools - check the privacy settings on accounts like Facebook, and remind children to keep any personal information safe and what to do if they see anything that upsets them

The NSPCC and O2 are also providing simple resources to help parents with online safety, including our innovative Net Aware tool, which gives information on content, privacy and age settings for over 50 social media sites and is updated on an ongoing basis to keep pace with changes online. Parents can also call the dedicated NSPCC online safety Helpline on 0808 800 5002.

For more information visit www.nspcc.org.uk/o2

Photo Credit Jon Challicom

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