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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Talking to your child about being kind online

Image: bildschoenes/stock.adobe.com

The internet has many positive opportunities for children to learn and play, but it can also have a bad reputation as a place of negativity.

As a public space, it’s easy for people to make deliberate, offensive or nasty comments or posts online with the aim of upsetting someone – often called ‘trolling’ or online bullying. 

It’s important to speak to your child about being kind online and how they can get help if they see or hear anything online that upsets them. 

Here are some online scenarios, based on Thinkuknow’s Jessie & friends and Play Like Share animations, where your child might find it difficult to recognise when people are not being kind online. 

You can use these as conversation starters to talk about how the characters might be feeling, and whether this is an example of being kind online. You can also explore how a friend could help or support each of these characters. 

Scenario 1: Mean comments

Mo is playing a game online with someone from his class. He tells Mo that he is rubbish at the game.   

Online gaming can be quite competitive. Although comments and words can be a result of frustration and not always meant to cause offence, mean comments or insults can hurt. Competitive criticism might feel like bullying for some children.

Remind your child that whenever they post, comment or speak online, they should always think about how it might make other people feel. Could their words upset someone, even if they don’t mean to? Let them know that it’s never ok for anyone to say mean things when chatting online. 

Talk about what a good friend would do if someone was being mean to their friend. For example: not join in, check their friend is OK, or ask the person to stop being mean. They could even tell a trusted adult, like a teacher or a parent, if they were worried about their friend. 

You can also talk to your child about how they can report unwanted content online

Scenario 2: Sharing images or videos with others

Tia is chatting with Jessie online. She shows Tia a video of herself doing a silly dance. Tia thinks this is really funny and decides to share with another friend. 

Many children love to share online, and may see sharing pictures and videos as harmless fun. However, sharing without someone’s permission can cause upset. 

Let your child know that being kind to others online means respecting them and thinking about the consequences of sharing something that involves someone else. Let them know they should always ask for permission before sharing a photo or a video online. 

If the answer is ‘yes’, it is ok to do it. If the answer is ‘no’, it is not ok to do it.

Scenario 3: Pressuring someone to do something

Alfie is playing a game online when another gamer he doesn’t know, asks him to play with him. The gamer offers Alfie some gaming coins to play with him, but Alfie says no, as he has to go to school. The gamer starts making threats to Alfie if he doesn’t play with him.

When playing or speaking with someone online, children don’t always know if that person is who they say they are offline. Whilst it may seem friendly and kind that someone is offering them gifts, or giving them lots of compliments, this can be a sign of pressuring and manipulative behaviour. 

Let your child know that being kind to others online means not making someone do something they don’t want to do. Explain that if anyone says anything online, or asks them to do anything online that makes them feel uncomfortable, they should tell you or an adult they trust. 

Scenario 4: Liking something mean

Alfie and his band are entering their school’s Battle of the Band’s contest. A rival band, the Popcorn Wizards, write a mean comment about Alfie online. Alfie’s friend, Sam, ‘likes’ the comment. 

It can be difficult for children to think about how their online actions can affect others and they may not realise that by liking or sharing something – like a picture or mean comment – they might upset others. 

Talk to your child about empathy – what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes. 

When we post something about someone else online, we might not be able to see how it makes them feel. Ask them to think about the consequences of their actions before they post, comment or speak online. 

Being a kind example 

Children learn from those around them, so what you do online will influence their online behaviour. 

Make sure your online activity is a good example to your child, by taking some time to check your friendships, privacy settings and the things you have posted. 

Model kind and respectful behaviours such as asking them permission before sharing a photo of them. You could even talk them through your own thought process behind what you do online, such as thinking who you need to ask before you post something. 

Find out more 

The scenarios above are based on NCA - CEOP’s Thinkuknow  education resources Jessie & Friends and Play Like Share. The Jessie and friends animations for 4-7 year olds cover topics such as sharing personal information, watching videos and more. For 8-10 year olds, Play Like Share helps children learn how to spot pressuring and manipulative behaviour online. Watch the animations with your child to support  their understanding. 

For more support, the BBC Own It app has been designed for children who are getting their first mobile device, to help them to make considered choices, feel more confident, and have positive online experiences. It gives children and young people advice in real-time as they type or go online. For example, it will tell them if they type a comment which might be unkind.  

Action

The new RSE/RSHE curriculum

The new RSE (for primary) and RSHE (secondary) curriculum is compulsory from September 2020. However, due to the impact of COVID-19, schools have been given additional time to implement it if they need it. They must begin teaching by April 2021. Parent Info will be running a series of articles over the next year exploring the ‘Online Relationships’ aspect of the new primary curriculum and the ‘Online and media’ aspect of the secondary curriculum. This article will help parents of primary-aged children to support their learning, specifically that they ‘Know that the same principles apply to online relationships as to face-to face relationships, including the importance of respect for others online including when we are anonymous’.

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