Top tips to keep kids safe online

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

In 2023, 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 our customers keep their families safe online. We’re also a proud partner of Internet Matters, an organisation with a platform packed with advice for adults who want to raise digitally resilient children.

With 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, we’re sharing our top tips to help you feel confident about supporting your family as they explore the digital world.

woman and child talking

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.

child sitting holding their phone

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. Remember to adjust the parental controls on all your broadband and internet-enabled devices, depending on your child’s age. You can find out how by visiting your broadband provider’s website. 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.

person holding a phone

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. And if they’re younger, do it for them. When your child is old enough to use social networking sites – the minimum age limit is 13 for platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok – 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 phone numbers, their address or their 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.

woman and child looking at a phone

Set boundaries

It’s never too early to start setting rules about when and for how long your child can use devices. Encourage children under 12 to use devices in shared spaces like a lounge or kitchen so you can keep an eye on what they’re up to. If needed, you can also set hard screen time limits on devices using platforms such as Microsoft Family Safety, Google Family Link and Apple Screen Time. For children aged 14 and over, focus on equipping them with tools to 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 too. And remember, it’s important to lead by example. If you set boundaries such as no phones during mealtimes, make sure everyone in the family, including adults, sticks to them.

man and child laughing at phone

Tailored digital toolkits to keep your kids safe online

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 the personalised ‘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 and favourite apps and platforms. So you can feel more equipped than ever to help them navigate the online world.

Published: 9 Feb 2023