Top tips to keep kids safe online

Learn how to support your children as they make the most of the digital world

The internet is a central part of life, for kids as much as adults. But whether you’ve got little ones in preschool or teenagers using social media for the first time, knowing how to support your family in using the internet responsibly can be tricky. That’s why O2 has a range of tools to help customers keep their families safe online. O2 is also a proud partner of the organisation Internet Matters. Their platform is packed with advice for adults who want to raise digitally resilient children, including the personalised My Family’s Digital Toolkit.

As internet users face issues such as cyberbullying, inappropriate content, privacy breaches and identity theft, it’s more important than ever to keep kids safe online. So, to mark Safer Internet Day 2024, we’re sharing our top tips to help you feel confident about supporting your family as they explore the digital world.

Be curious, proactive and sensitive

Whether your child is 7 or 17, it’s important to have regular conversations about what they do when they’re online. Take an interest in their favourite things to do. You can do this when you’re already spending time together, so the conversation feels relaxed and natural. While you’re picking them up from school, going for your weekly shop or on a walk together, use things like news stories or television plotlines to talk about what they’d do if a similar issue happened to one of their friends. Use your own experiences to talk about things that might go wrong online, and make sure they know they can talk to you if they’re upset about something they’ve seen.

Adjust parental controls

To help keep kids safe online, we filter and block websites hosting 18+ content by default. This means anyone using an O2 device has to prove they’re over 18 to access age-restricted content. You can also set up our Parental Control service, which makes sure your children can only use their mobile to visit sites that are suitable for them. You can also adjust the parental controls on all your internet-enabled devices to set limits on app access and in-app spending – find out how by visiting your broadband provider’s website. And don’t forget each app will have its own parental controls. Need help setting up parental controls online? Come into an O2 store or call our free advice line on 0808 800 5002 and we’ll talk you through it. Or for more information check out the Internet Matters parental controls page.

Use privacy settings

Make sure your child is using privacy settings wherever possible. If they’re aged 11 or older, you can help them set these up so they feel involved in the process. If they’re younger, do it for them. When your child is old enough to use social networking sites, make sure their privacy settings are high. Encourage them to regularly change their passwords and to never share or put any of their personal details (like their phone number, address or school) online. Check that safety and privacy settings are activated on their mobile devices, too. They can learn more about why these measures are important on our page about children’s online privacy.

Set boundaries

It’s worth setting rules about when and for how long your child can use devices. Kids under 12 should use devices in shared spaces like the kitchen, so you can keep an eye on what they’re up to. You can also set screen time limits using platforms such as Microsoft Family Safety, Google Family Link and Apple Screen Time. For children aged 14 and up, aim to help them self-regulate their own internet use. Have regular chats about how much time they spend online and how they feel this affects their wellbeing, and make sure they’re involved in non-screen-based activities. And remember, it’s important to lead by example. If there’s a “no phones at mealtimes” rule, adults should stick to it too.

Adjust parental controls

Trying to keep your family safe online can feel overwhelming, especially when children’s needs are as ever-changing as the internet itself. Luckily, you can find in-depth, easy-to-understand guides, resources and toolkits at Internet Matters, including My Family’s Digital Toolkit. Just answer some simple questions about your family’s online interests, concerns, and habits to receive online safety guidance tailored to your children’s age, needs, favourite apps and platforms. So you can feel more equipped than ever to help them navigate the online world.

Published: 06 Feb 2024