Contributor

This article was contributed by NCA-CEOP

NCA-CEOP is a command of the National Crime Agency. As well as being a reporting mechanism, NCA-CEOP works with child protection partners across the UK and overseas to identify the main threats to children, and coordinates activity against these threats to bring offenders to account.

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Coronavirus – stay at home! And look after your online health!

Children smiling while using a laptop

Image: Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels

With schools across the UK closed to most families, children are spending more time online doing their school work and socialising with friends.

Technology is proving to be hugely valuable for education, as well as being a social lifeline. Many families are finding they want to relax their rules about tech during lockdown – a lot of parents report that they’re worrying less about screen time – but clearly, some risks remain.

Keep talking

For many cooped-up families, it’s privacy that’s at a premium, rather than time to talk. But this period turns out to be a great opportunity to hear what your children are doing online. The crisis may have prompted children to try interesting new platforms and apps for news and entertainment.

If you want to keep up with what they’re doing, Parent Zone has expert reviews of all the popular platforms and apps. Parent reviews are available on the NSPCC and O2’s Net Aware Guide.

It’s a relief to know that latest research suggests the amount of time your child spends online isn’t likely to affect their happiness. That said, for health reasons, it still makes sense to organise the day with a variety of activities, not forgetting exercise and fresh air, where possible – not least because that will help with sleep.

Parental controls

Parental controls are a quick and effective tool to help protect children online. They’re not foolproof – and there’s evidence that too much reliance on them isn’t helpful. They should, though, be installed on all devices that children use. For detailed guidance on setting up different controls, see Parent Zone’s Parent Guides, and the online tool from Internet Matters, which helps you set up a personalised list of the controls used on your different devices, apps and networks, with videos and instructions.

Online safety activities

Every fortnight, Thinkuknow (the online safety education programme from the NCA-CEOP), has released a new set of simple online safety home activities to share with children and young people between the ages of four and 16. The latest packs explore the theme of image-sharing and will help you to keep up a positive, age-appropriate and supportive conversation about online safety in your home. Video guides, provided alongside the newest activity packs, explore the positives and the risks of sharing images online and offer practical advice for parents and carers of primary and secondary-aged children on what they can do to reduce the risks and how they can seek help if they’re worried about an image that has been shared.

Reporting

It’s important that children and young people always know where to go if they need help. This is especially important during this time, as trusted sources of support, such as teachers, may not be available. Children may not have as many opportunities to confidently talk to their friends, who we know are often their first point of contact when they are worried. Make sure they know they can talk to someone, whether that’s you, another adult or a trustworthy service.

  • Encourage them to speak to you or another adult immediately if they have any worries or concerns.
  • Remind them that they can always call Childline (or another helpline such as the one from The Mix) – whether it’s something that has happened online, stress about being stuck at home, arguments with siblings, or anxiety about Coronavirus.
  • Make sure they know that they can always report to CEOP if they are worried about sexual abuse online. Young people can also report to CEOP if they are worried about a friend. The young person will be contacted by a social worker at CEOP who will help them.

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