Parents and carers are being urged to make sure their children are safe when they are online.

It comes as latest statistics show that over half of young people aged 10 to 12 years old have been exposed to inappropriate content online, while 1 in 3 children aged 5 to 7 use social media unsupervised. 

There was a 65% increase in ‘self-generated’ imagery in children aged 7 to 10 last year, while the NSPCC research suggests that one in 20 children and young people have experienced online sexual risks or harms. At the same time, Internet Watch Foundation declared 2023 a record year for online child sexual abuse reports. 

Councillor Jacqui Coogan, the City of Wolverhampton Council’s Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Education, said: “The internet provides children and young people with access to valuable resources – from online learning tools to support education and ways to connect with family and friends. 

“But there are also potential risks of harm through internet abuse and dangerous crimes. Cyber bullies, internet predators, and scammers use digital technology to invoke harm.

“Children and young people regularly use different websites and apps, and it can be hard to keep up in this ever changing digital world. But the things that help keep children safe online are often like the things that keep them safe offline.

“As a parent, it’s important you recognise and understand the potential harms for your child when online, and what they should be doing to protect themselves.”

Follow these top tips to help keep your child safe in the digital world:

  • talk about what they think is normal online and what behaviour they should expect from others and themselves. They must be resilience online and move away from the ‘abnormal’ things they may see and hear
  • encourage them to think critically and question what they see online. Talk to them about where they go to get information they trust, talk about fake news, fake followers, and scams. Help them develop a healthy suspicion of whether people are who they say they are
  • share your knowledge and experience of relationships. For example, sometimes people seem nice at first and then they turn out to be mean. Let them know that you know this, they can talk to you about it. And that you won’t panic or punish them if they do

Further help and support is available from the UK Safer Internet Centre at Guides and Resources Parents and Carers, the NSPCC at Keeping children safe online and Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command.