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Inappropriate content online

talking to children about inappropriate content online

21st July 2016

Talking to children about inappropriate content online can be as awkward as the dreaded ‘father and son talk’ or the sweaty-palmed handshake with the future father-in-law. Despite this, and as parents, guardians or even educators, it is a hurdle we all have to face.


the what?

Firstly, what do we mean by inappropriate content? Your immediate thought was most likely pornographic material. And while this type of content is considered inappropriate, it is important that adults do not categorise this term alone as inappropriate content, and instead note that inappropriate content can also be:

  • Information or images that upset a child
  • Material that is directed towards adults
  • Inaccurate information or information that might lead or tempt a child into unlawful or dangerous behaviour


the statistics

Being safe on the internet

Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) are a not-for-profit organisation who minimise the availability of online sexual abuse content. The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) works internationally with partners worldwide, to identify threats to children. Pro-eating disorder websites are deemed to be ‘inappropriate content’ due to their nature of encouraging dangerous health-threatening behaviours.


the how?

In this growing world of technology, it can often be difficult to monitor the online footsteps of children and what they are viewing, sending or receiving. It is therefore paramount that we educate them to stay safe on the internet. But the big question is: how? Talking to children about inappropriate content online is never without its challenges. How do we do this without looking like the interfering adult? How do we speak to children in a way that makes them want to listen?

Here are a few hints and tips for talking to children about inappropriate content online that you could use to help cross this bridge…

  1. Start on a positive note: engage in a light hearted conversation with your child or student about the internet, asking questions like: what is their favourite website? Why do they like to go on the websites they do? Is there a group of websites that they regularly visit on a daily basis? This will then nicely lead you into the next step…


  1. Direct the conversation: you have received some background information as to what sites your child or student may visit. Now is the time to guide the topic of discussion, to help them understand that sometimes when searching on the internet they may accidently stumble across something they do not wish or hadn’t planned to see.


  1. Encourage dialogue: a mistake that adults can often make is trying to bubble wrap children ‘for their own protection’. Despite this sounding like a good idea (especially in the eye of a parent) children like to explore. In order to have the most successful conversation, it is important you ask your child or student about what they view inappropriate content online to be. You could do this by asking them what they think an inappropriate website is. This will help you gather an understanding of the level of exposure your child or student has experienced in regards to this topic.


  1. Explain: here comes the hard part! It is important you correct or praise your child or student for the examples they provide, however it is also fundamental that you provide some examples of your own. This could be anything from content that contains swearing to content that contains gambling, it is your judgement call. This will help your child or student to gather a greater understanding of what they think ‘inappropriate content online’ may be.


  1. Establish some ground rules: reassure your child or student that they can confide in either yourself or a trusted adult about anything online that may upset or confuse them. Finally, you can also remind them that CEOP have a handy online tool where they can report anything they see online which makes them feel uncomfortable.


handy resources for talking to children about inappropriate content online:

Internet matters – Information about inappropriate content your child might come across

NSPCC – Advice and tools about how to keep your child safe online

CEOP Centre – A guide that provides training and support for professionals who works directly with young people

Childnet – A website that provides advice to parents and professionals about using the internet with children


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