Is Your Child Being Unsafe Online? 4 Signs You Need To Look Out For, According To An Expert |

Is Your Child Being Unsafe Online? 4 Signs You Need To Look Out For, According To An Expert

Advice for parents to ensure their child is being safe when online

Posted on

6 February 2019

Is Your Child Being Unsafe Online?

All Credits: PA

The internet is a brilliant tool for helping children to play, learn and create, but it can also provide risks to their physical safety and emotional wellbeing.

With iPads, smartphones and laptops providing easy access to the digital world, there may be times when parents worry about their child’s online safety. Cyber bullies, inappropriate content and predators can pose a significant risk, and every parent’s worst fear is finding out that their child is in danger online.

Thankfully, there are lots steps that you can take to keep your children safe online – from altering social media privacy settings to employing parental controls on browsers. Social media firms are also expected to face tougher regulations to help protect young users in the coming months too, as Digital Minister Margot James will reveal today.

James will make a speech at a conference for Safer Internet Day, to announce the publication of a policy paper that will crack down on bullying, abuse and misinformation online.

The speech comes as suicide minister Jackie Doyle-Price also warned that self-harm content, like that viewed by teenager Molly Russell before she took her own life in November 2017, now poses an online threat as great as child grooming.

As a parent, keeping kids safe on the internet is all about staying diligent, and it’s essential to know the red flags to look out for. We asked an online safety expert to point out the signs that may suggest your child’s online usage isn’t safe.

1. Becoming Withdrawn And Spending More Time On Their Devices Than Usual

Look out for any unusual behaviour

Look out for any unusual behaviour (Thinkstock/PA)

Adele Abbiss, Online Safety Expert at Smoothwall says: “Seeming distant and spending more time on their phone, game console or computer can be a tell-tale sign that a child is regularly speaking to someone.

“This could just be a friend from school, but it is important to know who they are speaking to in case they are someone they shouldn’t be communicating with.

“A way to tackle this is for parents to know what apps and social media platforms their child may be using. They should also try to use them themselves, so as to understand how they work and what is possible.

“Does it have a chat functionality, a private inbox, or can you add privacy settings on there to minimise inappropriate content? This way, parents can be more mindful of the potential risks, and more importantly how to eliminate them.”

2. Being Secretive About Who They’re Talking To

Abiss says: “If a child is unwilling or struggles to answer when asked who it is that they’re talking to online, it should raise instant alarm bells.

“A child’s mind is malleable and easily influenced. As parents, it’s imperative to know if they are communicating with someone who may be putting them in danger, whether it be emotionally or physically.

“If a parent suspects that a child is unsafe online, having an open and honest conversation would be the first approach. We must all make sure children understand online risks, what to look out for, and feel that they have the confidence to know they can speak to an adult.

“However, if something doesn’t feel right, parents should take full advantage of parental controls available, whether that be on phones, tablets, laptops or games consoles.”

3. Unexplained Changes In Behaviour After Using The Device

“It’s important that parents monitor for behavioural patterns as children can become anxious and sometimes aggressive either when unable to use their desired device, or after having used it,” Abiss adds.

“These changes in behaviour could be as a result of hurtful messages and cyberbullying, or even inappropriate content being sent to them by a stranger or even someone they know.

“It’s therefore imperative to keep a close eye on children’s disposition, so if they should seem out of character, you will be aware of it all that much sooner.”

4. Lack Of Interest In Activities That Do Not Involve The Internet

“Another red flag is if a child is simply not showing an interest in activity that is not online,” warns Abiss.

“Children can often forget that there is a whole world around them, outside of their devices, and become too engrossed in the internet. This can be incredibly harmful to their mental state.

“It’s important to encourage time off-screen. There are other ways to have fun, and by switching off from the online world, it can also help reduce the impact of potential cyberbullying and other harmful side risks the internet can pose.”

So How Can You Keep A Child Safe Online?

If you’re concerned about your child’s internet use, the NSPCC has created some quick and memorable tips for parents on keeping your child safe online:

T – talk about staying safe online
E – explore their online world together
A – agree rules about what’s OK and what’s not
M – manage your family’s settings and controls

Visit for more information.