Tag Archives: online safety

Parents Guide to Facebook

Digital safety can be a difficult topic for all parents, not least those who aren’t very technically savvy. There is a bewildering array of apps and social media sites available, all hugely popular with the teenage age group. Take a moment to read our Parents Guide to Facebook & learn all about the safety features available on this site to help keep your child safe online.


What is Facebook

Facebook is a social media platform which allows for the sharing of images, text & videos. Users can add other people as ‘friends’ in an online network and share updates about themselves. Users can like, react or comment on statuses, images, videos, comments & much more on the platform. The social media platform also encompasses businesses, organisations & news outlets, making it a huge source of digital information sharing. The network allows individuals to create ‘Groups’ which are for people with mutual interests to connect and share information. Facebook has event planning & invite tools available for individuals and businesses to organise events with. There is a digital marketplace on Facebook, where individuals can sell goods & services in their local areas. People use the social platform to stay connected with friends virtually and update others on their lives, keep up to date with news and groups they are interested in & watch videos, play games & more.

Facebook has a ‘messenger’ application which is connected on desktop or optionally downloadable in app form via phone. Messenger allows users to send real time, digital messages to each other, similar to texting. Users can send images, videos, gifs, files & create or join group chats of multiple people via messenger.

How do I set up an account?

You can create an account through the Facebook homepage. Users are required to sign up with their full name & date of birth and confirm their account through an email address or a phone number. Facebook does not allow children below the age of 13 to sign up for an account.

What do I need to keep an eye on?

Minimum Age Range

Facebook does not allow children below the age of 13 to sign up for an account. Facebook requires users to enter their date of birth before signing up and bars users below this age from creating an account.

Account Privacy

  • You can set your child’s account to private so individuals can only see their profile when they have accepted their friend request. Go to your profile and in the top right corner of the screen click the small downward facing arrow. Click ‘Settings & Privacy’.
  • Next to ‘Activity’ change the option saying ‘Who can see my future posts’ to ‘Friends’. Change the option next to ‘Who can send me friend requests’ to ‘Friends of Friends’ to minimise the likelihood of people unknown to your child trying to add them.
  • Next to How people can find and contact you toggle beside Who can look you up from the email your provided and Who can look you up from the phone number you provider > Only Me
  • Go to the Profile section in the privacy settings section and change the following: Who can post on your profile > Friends, Who can see what others post on your profile > Friends, Allow others to share your post to their story > No, When you’re tagged in a post, who do you want to add to the audience of the post if they can’t already see it? > Friends
  • Enable Timeline review to allow your child to check what they are being tagged in before posts go public. You can do this by going to Timeline and tagging. Enable the section which says Review posts that you’re tagged in before the post appears on your timeline? & enable Review tags that people add to your posts before the tags appear on Facebook?

There are a host of other useful privacy settings which you can change to your satisfaction for your child. The above privacy settings are a useful, strong start to keep your child safe on this platform.

Blocking an Account

You can block another user from following you, seeing your profile or any of your content by going on their profile and going to ‘Settings’ option on the top right of the screen. You can then select the ‘Blocking’ option. This will allow your child to remove anyone from their account with who they are having any negative interactions.

Reporting an Account

If your child is uncomfortable with the behaviour of another account, has seen something that has upset them, or noticed another user engaging in bullying behavior, they can report the account to Facebook, who will review that user’s social media use. You can also report spam, groups, ads with this tool. To do this, go on their profile and select the ‘…’ symbol to the right of the post that has concerned them. There will be an option to report the activity, post, group or individual available here.

Location Sharing

It is possible for people to share their location each time they post. Make sure your child is aware of the dangers of sharing their real-time location online, and encourage them to never tag any image or status they post with the location on it.

Facebook has a ‘Parents Portal’ with further information on how to chat to your child about digital safety, pointers on their privacy features and much more useful information. Find out more here


Facebook Etiquette for Children

Digitally safe children are children who are not afraid to share their online experiences with their parents. If you aren’t confident online, ask your kids to teach you how to use their favourite apps. Children who can speak to you about their social media use are more likely to come to you if there is a problem. Teens enjoy social media sites as they allow them to interact with their peer group and practice self expression, while staying in touch with friends. Age-appropriate social media use that is monitored safely by parents with security features enabled can be a positive way for your children to interact with the digital world, learn new skills & interact with their peer group.

Some tips for parents to keep in mind:

  • Remind your young person that it is always good to discuss difficult or potentially volatile conversations in person, rather than online.
  • Emphasise that respecting others’ privacy is as important online as it is in person. They should not share their friend’s private information or share anything sent to them with others that would violate another’s privacy. Teaching your child the value of respecting others in the digital sphere is an important life skill for children to learn.
  • Encourage them to be a positive influence on social media. Remind them that digital interactions which are hurtful or mean can be just as damaging as face-to-face insults.
  • Learning when is the right time to leave a conversation digitally is also a good skill to teach your child, as it is easy to type a message in the heat of the moment and then regret it!
  • It is worth discussing with your teen that sending inappropriate images on Facebook or Facebook messenger is never a good idea. Images can be saved by recipients in direct message conversations and could easily be shared outside of this private conversation. A conversation that underlines that anyone requesting such images does not have your teen’s best interest at heart is an essential conversation to have.
  • Encourage your young person to talk to you if they see something or read something that they are worried or scared about – open and honest communication is really important when keeping your child safe online

More information:





Keeping Children Safe Online

Many children in today’s society have easy access to the internet, whether it be using their smartphone, computers, tablets, at home, in school or with friends. UNICEF reported ‘’globally, one in three internet users is a child’’[1]. Therefore, as parents are not always in control of what their children see online, it is important that parents are educated on how to keep their children safe online. This article will focus on defining the types of online risks children maybe be subjected to, help parent to recognize the signs that their children may be at risk and provide some top tips on ‘how to keep children safe online’. 

Online Usage for Children and its Risks

Ofcom noted the number of children having an increased access to the internet[1], their figures state:

  • Children aged nine and 10 using as smartphone has almost doubled from 23% in 2018, to 50% in 2020, and by the age of 15 almost all children have one 94%
  • WhatsApp is used by almost two thirds of older children, which has increased from 43% in 2018 to 62% in 2020, Facebook 62%, Snapchat 68% and Instagram 66%
  • One in seven older children in the UK use TikTok, an app that allows users to create a 15-second video, an increase from 8% in 2018 to 13% in 2020

UNICEF[2] has interviewed more than 10,000 teenagers across 25 countries on experiences of harassment, bullying or unwanted sexual comments online. They found that more than half of participants stated their friends participated in risky behaviors. They found that eight out of 10 18 year olds worldwide believe young people are in danger online. Interestingly, most teenagers agreed that meeting new people online was important to them, and 36% stated they could strongly tell in someone was lying about their identity online and more than 80% said they could deal with sexual comments online.

UNICEF have stated that governments have a duty to coordinate responses between law enforcement, schools, and internet providers to provide better protection for children online. They have found that 94% of UK and US teenagers believed they could protect themselves on social media, perhaps showing the benefits of being educated in online safety.

Additionally, The Belfast Telegraph published an article in 2020[3], stating that two-thirds of children in NI claim to have witnessed hateful content online. In support of this, Ofcom released a study in 2019[4], on children’s media and online life, they found that 43% are increasingly concerned about the content their children view online, with Ofcom’s study focused on children’s use of well-known apps and the possibility of being bullied. The study was based on 3,500 interviews of parent and children in the UK, they found that, 51% of 12-15 years olds saw hateful content online last year and this has jumped to 62%. Therefore showing the importance of a parents need to increase their knowledge and awareness and of online safety. Ofcom’s study supports this as they found that 85% of parents interviewed stated that they were likely to speak to their children about staying safe on the internet.

This research shows the increase in the number of children having access to the internet and their increased exposure to risk.

Online Risks

The internet can be dangerous for everyone, but children in particular are more vulnerable. An online risk is the likelihood of a person being exposed to a danger or adverse situation, during their time online. Children can be at risk on the internet from people that they know or strangers.

Online risks can take place through electronic devices with access to the internet, such as:

  • Smartphones
  • Apps, for example, TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram, etc.
  • Social networking sites, for example, Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, etc.

There are specific types of risks that your children may be exposed to such as:

Cyber Bullying: this refers to bullying through sharing communication and information on the internet. Bullying itself is when a person(s) repeatedly and intentionally verbally or physically abuses another person causing them psychological or physical harm, and can be conducted by an independent or a group of people. Examples of cyber bullying include; sending hurtful messages, setting up fake profiles, sharing embarrassing stories or pictures of someone and posting hurtful material on social media. The Department of Education in 2011[1] found that 15.5% of children in Year 6 and 17% of children in Year 9 were subjected to cyber bullying in the two previous months.  In reality we know the figures are likely to be much higher as many children and young people do not disclose their experiences for fear of being ‘in trouble’ with their parents or schools.

Online Scams: this is when a person makes a dishonest or illegal plan, which often involves tricking people in order to obtain something, for example, make money or steal personal information. A person can be scammed via text message, email, fake websites, social media, etc. A Scammer may often try to sell you something, send you an urgent or alarming message, threaten, providing links to click on etc. Children and young people tend to be inexperienced and more trusting when it comes to interactions online which makes them vulnerable to online scammers.

Privacy: this refers to the risk of private information such as, personal details, location, accessing your accounts, stealing cookies. For example, your information may be given to other websites; you may be subject to identity theft or online tracking (allowing a third party to build up a profile on you based on your private information). Children may be more vulnerable to privacy online threats as result of their lack of awareness or digital skills.

Recognising the signs that your child has been exposed to an online risk

It is important parents are able to recognise signs that their children may be experiencing abuse online, for example, your child may:

  • Becomes obsessive about being online
  • Spend an increased or decreased amount of time online
  • Show emotions of sadness, anger or irritability after being online
  • Keeps secrets about what they are doing online, for example, turning off their phone or laptop when you enter the room
  • Talk about new ‘friends / people’ they’ve met online
  • Be withdrawn from family activities after using the internet
  • Receives phone calls or texts from people or numbers you don’t recognise
  • Receives gifts of packages from an unknown person
  • Is looking at inappropriate content

Tips on How to Keep Children Safe Online:

  1. Report abuse: this is an important step to take when something goes wrong in order to keep your child safe online. You should explain to your child the importance of talking when something goes wrong online and if they are feeling scared. Reassure them everything will be okay and they are not in the wrong. In the case of abuse, firstly, you should report abuse to the website or app being used (there is often a section in setting which allows you to report abuse, sometimes it may be under the tab ‘help’). If you feel the abuse is more serious and requires immediate attention it is important that you contact the police and file a report. It is important you talk to someone you trust if you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed about your child’s online safety. You can also contact a local charity such as Parenting NI based in NI or NSPCC operating Nationally if you have concerns about your young persons online use.
  2. Teach your child the importance of keeping safe online: showing your child how to keep their profiles on private (refer to Parenting NI links for specific app guides). This option is often found in settings under the tab ‘privacy’. You should also stress the importance of setting passwords and not sharing personal information online.
  3. Encourage your child to speak openly about their online activity: this will allow you to build up a trust with your child and keep control of what they are doing online.

[1] http://www.endbullying.org.uk/what-is-bullying/online-bullying/

[1] https://syncni.com/article/3655/over-half-of-ni-kids-have-seen-hateful-content-online

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/jun/07/poll-reveals-teenagers-concerns-over-online-abuse

[3] https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/two-thirds-of-northern-ireland-children-have-seen-online-hate-content-report-reveals-38923950.html

[4] https://syncni.com/article/3655/over-half-of-ni-kids-have-seen-hateful-content-online

[1] Unicef (2016) https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/jun/07/poll-reveals-teenagers-concerns-over-online-abuse

Parents’ Week Highlighting Challenges of Parenting in the Digital Age

Leading local parenting support charity, Parenting NI has launched its annual Parents’ Week campaign which this year focuses on the challenges of parenting in the digital age.

Parenting NI increasingly hear from parents concerned about their children’s use of technology, whether it’s how much time they spend on their devices or sexting and cyberbullying. The organisation is using the week to remind parents that they don’t need to be experts when it comes to the internet, just having open conversations and exploring the internet with your children can help keep them safe online.

Parents often feel that putting blocks and filters on devices and broadband is no longer enough to combat the risks posed online and don’t know who to turn to for help or advice. Parenting NI will be launching top tips as part of Parents’ Week and encouraging schools to get on board, promoting positive message of online safety to help parents manage the challenges of parenting in the digital age.

Charlene Brooks, Interim CEO at Parenting NI said, “The increasing reliance on digital technology and the rise in the use of the internet and social media, whilst important for sharing information and useful for communication, has brought unique challenges for parents.

Parenting NI recognise that it can seem like a daunting topic to tackle given the amount of information and horror stories we can often be bombarded with. However, it’s important to remember that there are also many benefits to the internet. Some of the key messages that will be promoted during the week will be to encourage parents to talk to their children about what they do online and setting some age appropriate, family boundaries when it comes to use of the internet and technology.”

A free event for parents will take place on Monday 24th October at the Hilton in Templepatrick with psychologist, Oxford fellow and author of Parents and Digital Technology: How to Raise the Connected Generation, Dr John Coleman. The evening will offer parents tips, strategies and techniques for navigating the digital world with their children.

Speaking on writing the book Dr John Coleman said, “Research for the book actually led to exploring impressive positives in using digital technology as well as the possible dangers. The approach is to explore the anxieties, explain the genuine worries and threats but then to look at the very real benefits. The trick, which we aim to help parents manage, is to balance the two and learn how to maximise the benefits while minimising the dangers.”

As part of the Parents’ Week campaign Parenting NI are also asking MLAs to get behind the online safety messages and to make a pledge for their support for parents. Kellie Armstrong, Alliance MLA is one of the politicians keen to back the move, “I am delighted to be supporting Parenting NI’s ‘Parenting in the Digital Age’ campaign as part of Parents’ Week. This campaign helps keep parents informed & as a local MLA and a parent I understand it is important to ensure we stay aware of best practice. All parents have an important role to play in ensuring their children stay safe online and we all have a responsibility to make sure the internet is a safe and enjoyable place.”