Tag Archives: parenting

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

Walking on Eggshells- Belfast

Non-Violent Resistance Online Programme

Duration: Every Monday for 8 weeks beginning on 31st January 2022 and ending on the 21st March 2022 for 2 hours from 7.00pm – 9.00pm

Aim: To provide parents with the skills to achieve a calmer and violent free home

Child to parent violence is an abuse of power through which the child or adolescent attempts to coerce, control or dominate others in the family.

The Parents Walking on Eggshells Programme uses the principles of Non-Violent Resistance to help parents experiencing child to parent violence overcome their sense of helplessness, develop a support network, stop destructive behaviours inside the home and improve relationships between family members.

  • Overcome sense of helplessness
  • Develop a support network
  • Stop destructive behaviours
  • Improve family relationships

This programme is particularly suited to parents of children aged 8-16 years old.

Call 0808 8010 722 to register.

Freephone number is currently available Monday – Thursday 9:30 am – 3:30 pm and Friday 9:30 am – 12:30 pm. 

Keeping Your Cool Programme- Fermanagh


Duration: Every Friday for 6 weeks online via Zoom beginning on the 28th January 2022 and finishing on 4th March 2022 for 1.5 hours from 10.00am – 11.30am

Aim: To help parents manage their anger

Anger is a normal emotion, which most parents experience on a regular basis. It is often seen as a negative emotion but it can be used as a motivator to instigate change.

This 6 week online Keeping Your Cool programme via Zoom allows you to explore:

  • Reactions to anger
  • How anger impacts on children
  • How to identify the triggers
  • Find positive ways of managing their anger

Available for parents in the Southern Trust area

To find out more or to register, call us on freephone 0808 8010 722!

Parents Guide to Instagram

In our increasingly digital society, it can be difficult to navigate what apps & social networks are safe for your children to enjoy. Many parents find keeping up to date with the newest apps that appeal to children confusing and are not sure how to keep their child safe while they use them. Take a moment to read our Parents Guide to Instagram & learn all about the safety features available on one of the most popular apps of the moment!

What is Instagram

Instagram is a photo-sharing app that has exploded in popularity in the last few years, becoming a worldwide sensation that is used by a wide variety of age groups. Instagram is particularly popular among Teens & Tweens as it has a number of features that allow them to express themselves online in entertaining ways. You can share time-limited videos, share private messages with individuals or in groups and share images. You can also like & comment on other individuals’ photos or videos. Instagram allows you to follow your favourite celebrities & directly interact with their lives via liking and commenting on their posts. It offers real-time video and photo sharing options on ‘Instagram Stories’ with a variety of fun filters, stickers & music options that can be added before posting.

How do I set up an account?

You first have to download the app via the iOS store for apple phones or the google play store for android. You will need an email to register, then create a username and password & upload your profile photo.

What do I need to keep an eye on?

Minimum Age Range

The minimum age range for Instagram is 13 years old. Instagram 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 they have to approve anyone who would like to follow them before they can see any of their images. With this feature, they can also remove any of their followers at any time. This can stop strangers from seeing anything on their account. On your profile page, tap the top right symbol depicting three horizontal lines. On the bottom of your screen, you will now see a gear symbol that says ‘Settings’. Tap this and then tap the ‘Privacy’ option with a lock symbol to the left of it. You can now select the ‘Private account’ option by tapping the toggle bar.

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 tapping the ‘…’ option on the top right of the screen. You can then select the ‘Block’ 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 Instagram, who will review that user’s social media use. To do this, go on their profile and select the ‘…’ symbol on the top right of the screen. You will then be able to select the ‘Report’ option.

Turn on Filters

You can turn on the ‘Hide Offensive Comments’ option which automatically filters inappropriate or harmful language on the app. Go to the Settings bar & tap ‘Privacy’ then tap ‘Comments’ and toggle on the ‘Hide Offensive comments’ option. You can also toggle on the ‘Manual Filter’ which allows your child to type in words or phrases they would prefer not to see on the app.

Time on the app

Instagram allows users to track how much time they are spending on the app, which can be useful for parents to discourage unhealthy or obsessive device usage. To check this, proceed to your profile and then to your ‘Settings’ bar. Tap ‘Your Activity’ and you will be able to see the average amount of time spent on the app that week. You can also take the opportunity to set up a ‘Daily Reminder’ here which will send a notification once your child has reached the allotted time allowed on the app each day, which can help remind your child to disengage occasionally. You can also mute notifications in the ‘Your Activity’ section, which can stop the constant notifications which can often tempt your child to pick up their phone again and again as the day goes on. Social media can be addictive for children and teens, so try and emphasise the transitory nature of online interaction. It can be useful to talk to your child about the importance and satisfaction of face-to-face communication and remind them that relationships outside of the digital sphere are what are most important.

Location Sharing

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

Instagram Etiquette for Children

Teaching your child good digital etiquette and emphasising the potential permanency of conversations online is important. Digitally safe children are children who are not afraid to share their online experiences with their parents. Talking to your children about how to use social media tools safely in an open and honest way is the key to maintaining an open line of communication on this subject. If you are inquisitive about their social media use in a positive way, they are more likely to open up to you if they are experiencing any issues. Social media can be a great way to stay in touch with friends and a form of self-expression for children and allow them to interact positively with other members of their peer group. When age-appropriate & managed correctly by parents with security features enabled, social media apps can be a positive experience for your children.

Some points to keep in mind:

● Remind them 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 Instagram 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 with your child that underlines that anyone requesting such images does not have your teen’s best interest at heart is an essential conversation to have with your teenager.

● 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:

Want to read more of our digital safety guides? 

Parents Guide to Snapchat 

Parents Guide to Tik Tok 

Children’s Emotional Health

Available for parents in the South Eastern Trust

Children who have positive emotional health and wellbeing tend to have better outcomes in life. This workshop encourages parents of children to recognise the importance of their children’s mental health.

This workshop will:

  • Raise awareness of the effects on children with positive emotional health and wellbeing
  • Promote activities parents can use to enhance social and emotional learning
  • Equip parents with the skills to improve their children’s emotional health and wellbeing

Book Now

Promoting Positive Behaviour

Available for parents in the Antrim, Newtownabbey, Crumlin & Ballyclare areas. 

With the many changes this year, our children may be struggling to express their feelings, which may be resulting in challenging behaviour. This workshop will help parents understand the feelings behind the behaviour, and will support parents to develop strategies to help reduce the challenging behaviour and promote more positive behaviour. Supported by the McCall Social Fund

Call freephone 0808 8010 722 to register!

Promoting Positive Behaviour

For parents based in the Belfast Trust

With the many changes this year, our children may be struggling to express their feelings, which may be resulting in challenging behaviour. This workshop will help parents understand the feelings behind the behaviour, and will support parents to develop strategies to help reduce the challenging behaviour and promote more positive behaviour.

Book Now

Parent’s Guide to TikTok

What is TikTok?

TikTok is a short form video sharing app, which allows users to watch and share videos created other creators on the app. TikTok has exploded in popularity from 2019 and continues to grow, particularly among younger users who are drawn in through snappy editing tools, easy-to-add chart music features & a variety of dance and lip-syncing challenges encouraged by the app.

How do I set up an account?

Download the app from your preferred app store. Agree to the terms of service when prompted. Go to ‘Me’ on the home screen. You can register with a phone number or email and will be prompted to share your age – users under 18 need a parent or guardian to approve the use of the app before continuing. If your child is aged 13 – 15, their account will automatically be set up as private. You can add other users by searching for them via the search bar or by linking your contacts, which make following your friends on this app fairly simple.

What should parents look out for?

Additional Security Features for Parents

Parents can use ‘Restricted Mode’ for added control over their childs account or turn on ‘Family Saftey Mode’ to pair with their child’s account for an added layer of security. You can enable Family Safety Mode by downloading the app & creating your own account, then access the ‘…’ option on your child’s user profile. Sync your account with their account through the QR code presented on the app.

This includes a variety of new ‘Digital Wellbeing Measures’ which include:

Screen Time Management Limits
Direct Messages: Limit who can send messages to the connected account or turn off direct messaging completely.
Restricted Mode: Restrict the appearance of content that may not be appropriate for your child.

These features are a great way for parents to keep their child safe on this app. You can enable Digital Wellbeing Measures by going on to your child’s account and selecting the ‘…’ option in the top right of the screen. Select ‘Digital Wellbeing’ and enable any of the above measures for added safety.

You can make your child’s account private, which will limit the interactions they have with people they don’t know on this social media platform. To do so, go to the profile section and tap the ‘…’ option. Change this to ‘Private’. You could also change the settings on the section for comments, direct messages and ‘duets’ to ‘Friends’ only to further limit the potential of strangers using this platform to contact your children.

Blocking another user
If your child would like to block another user who they do not know, or is bothering them they can take the following steps. A blocked user will not be able to follow you. They also will not be able to view, like, or comment on your videos.

To block another user:

Go to Profile tab of user you want to block
Tap Settings ‘…’ icon in the top right corner
Tap Block

Moderation and abuse reporting
If your child has seen something which upsets them or they have found disturbing on this app, they can take the following steps to report it to TikTok for removal:
Report a profile: Go to the profile of the account you want to report. Next, tap the ‘…’ option in the top right corner & then tap ‘Report’.
Report a video: Open the video, Tap the Share icon (right arrow), then tap ‘Report’.
Report a comment: Tap the comment you’d like to report, then tap ‘Report’.
Report a message: Open the conversation, then tap the ‘…’ icon at the top right of the screen, then tap ‘Report’


The ‘Duet’ feature is super popular with teens on Tiktok. It allows two users to perform a virtual duet together, without being together in the same place. One user starts the duet by creating and posting a video. Their friend then taps the ‘…’ icon at the bottom right of the video and selects ‘start duet now!’ This opens a new video for the friend to duet alongside the original video.

Digital Etiquette
Teaching your child good digital etiquette and emphasising the potential permanency of conversations online is important.

Remind them 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 secrets 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.

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!

Lots of children are enamored with the idea of becoming ‘TikTok famous’ as the influence of social media stars grows in certain age groups. They can quickly become very caught up in ‘likes’ and online interaction. Remind them of the value of being themselves & fostering their current talents that exist outside the virtual sphere while keeping an eye on their screen time.

Don’t be afraid to allow your child (once at an appropriate age) to explore social media. Our children are growing up to be extremely digitally savvy. They will naturally want to explore what is out there and connect with their friends on what is new and exciting. Digitally safe children are children who are not afraid to share their online experiences with their parents. Be open to learning about new technologies that they are interested in sharing with you, while consistently teaching your children to remain respectful of themselves and others online.

More information:






Parents report a significant drop in their mental and emotional wellbeing due to Covid19

Parenting NI are aware of a surge in need regarding mental health and wellbeing services for parents and their children, yet there was a conspicuous lack of necessary data to understand what is needed to better support parents in the region. Their recent focussed study aims to fill in these gaps in knowledge and learn from parents what they need most regarding this issue. The report from the charity encompasses views from 262 parents from across the region, gathered in a mix of interviews and online survey responses during a month-long investigative period. The report sheds a light on the heavy impact of covid on families in NI. A total of 88% of parents reported that the pandemic had affected their wellbeing. Parents also felt that the pandemic was taking a heavy toll on their children’s emotional health and wellbeing too, with 47% stating it has affected them ‘a lot’, and 24% suggesting it affected them ‘a little’. 

Interestingly, the report found that a number of parents did experience some positive effects from the pandemic, namely spending more time at home as a family, however most noted that this was relevant to the first lockdown and subsequent lockdowns had been much more challenging.

“The change of pace has been positive for our family. The extra time spent together has boosted all our mental and emotional well-being”

However, notably the experience of families during the pandemic has been largely negative. The interviews highlighted many of the unique challenges children faced:

Parents expressed a desire for more support around emotional health and wellbeing, both for themselves and for their children. When looking at the support available, the majority (53%) of families told us they were not aware of help or support available to them. Many parents felt support was too limited or did not exist and wanted improvements in this area:

“Easily accessible information to support groups and funding from government for these organisations to provide these information and support sessions”

There has been an increased number of issues experienced by parents in regards to mental health provision and intervention services. Some of the parents surveyed wanted there to be more help offered in this area. Numerous parents reported that they had experienced difficulties finding help for themselves and their families. Many families have been unaware that support exists, and due to this have struggled. Communication from statutory services was often experienced by parents as confusing or lacking detail, which led to a lack of awareness of the support available.

Signposting between organisations could be capitalised to fill a need here to better support families. 

Charlene Brooks, Parenting NI CEO warns that support for children and parents need to be made available now “A proactive approach is needed – Parents are struggling with the weight of the challenges that this pandemic has imposed upon them and their families, and they need help now.  There needs to be clear and widespread communication about the support and services that are available with services being adequately resourced to meet demands”.

Read the full report here: 

Read now