How to Talk to Kids about Inappropriate Content
The internet is a big place, full of stories, pictures, and videos about all kinds of amazing things. However, not all of the internet is as safe as it should be. Handy safe search tools like Safe Search Kids can help children to avoid the more upsetting parts of the internet that they don’t want to see.
But sometimes, parents can’t protect their youngsters from everything they might spot online. Content shared on social media and posted by malicious people on otherwise secure sites can sometimes slip through the cracks.
Kids need to know that they can turn to their parents for support and guidance when they see something on their screen that makes them feel uncomfortable.
So, how can parents make sure that they’re prepared to talk to kids about inappropriate content?
Starting a Conversation About Online Content
First things first, when a child begins to use the internet, it’s worth sitting down for a chat about the kind of things that they might find there.
Remind them that anyone and everyone can post things on the internet, which means that sometimes, your child might come across something they don’t want to see.
However, your child should know that they can always come to you for reassurance—no matter what happens, and they won’t get into trouble for what they saw.
During your discussion, agree on some ground rules based on what your child likes to do online. Help them to understand that some sites are specifically designed for people of their age, and these sites are more prepared to protect them from unsuitable content.
You might also want to recommend using Google Safe Search as a way to filter out any unwanted content.
Always Be Calm and Reassuring
Seeing something that you don’t like online can be a shocking and upsetting experience. Your child needs to know that they can come to you for some cuddles and reassurance when whatever they see upsets them.
Let your little one know that you’re never going to be mad at them if they come across something inappropriate online.
Instead, you’re just there to help them understand what they saw. For instance, talk about the things that they saw online that made them upset:
- Discuss what they saw: Why did the image, video or content make them feel uncomfortable? Was it nasty comments about other people, or people being hurt?
- See what you can do about the content: Maybe you and your child can report that content so no other child will have to see it.
- Let them know that you’re there for them: Remind them that you’re always going to be there to protect them from those upsetting things.
- Show them how to block the site or look for an alternative: If your child wants to avoid the site in the future, maybe you can find another fun alternative together?
Spend Some Time on the Internet Together
While your child might want to spend some of their time on the internet browsing alone—particularly when they’re talking to friends on social media—you can also have some time browsing as a team.
Do some homework with your youngster using the web and see how they use things like the safe search function.
Based on what you see, you might be able to offer some advice on how they can avoid some more dangerous websites.
Talk to your child about what kind of content you think is appropriate for them—but don’t undermine their opinions. Ask them what they think is okay for children of different ages, and make sure that they’re involved in the ground rules and guidelines that you have in place.
Encouraging critical thinking is always a good idea when it comes to helping your child use the internet safely.
You won’t always be hanging over their shoulder to advise them on which sites are safe and which might not be. Help your child to figure out for themselves what a “good” or “bad” site might look like.
Talk About Positive Ways to Use Tech
While there are some scary parts to the internet, the online world is full of wonderful things too. When you’re on the web, you can learn about countless amazing things by reading useful articles and watching videos.
Let your child explore some of the fantastic things that the internet has to offer using tools like safe search, and apps on their phone that you’ve already approved.
Giving your child a selection of pre-vetted apps and websites that you know are safe for them to visit is a great way to reduce the risk of them being accidentally exposed to mature content.
You can even check out some kid-approved apps on the app store with your youngster and create a list of options for them to explore as a team.
It’s far more common for children to end up on a website that upsets them when they’re left to browse the internet without any guidelines to help them.
Discuss Staying Safe on Social Networks
Finally, your youngster is probably going to be on a social network or two, as these websites allow them to stay connected with their friends.
However, social networks can be risky at times, particularly because you can’t predict what other people are going to post.
Ask your child if they know where the reporting functions are, how they can keep their information private online, and how they can block someone who might be upsetting them.
It’s also worth reminding your child that offers and deals that they see online that seem “too good to be true” often are.
If your kid sees a link promising them something amazing when they click, tell them to come to you to double-check the safety of that link first.
Staying Safe Online
The online world is an amazing place, but it’s also one that can be difficult to navigate for a youngster.
Setting rules and guidelines in place for safe browsing will help to reduce the risk of your child being exposed to inappropriate content.
However, you should make sure that you know how to deal with the feelings that your child has when they see something they weren’t supposed to.
Michelle Laurey is a freelance writer who enjoys fitness, relaxing in the fresh air, trying to live a healthy life. Her best ideas and problem solutions appear while she’s riding her bicycle. Her superpower? Vinyasa yoga!
Talk to her on Twitter.