How do children use the internet and social networks

Children use the internet to socialise (communicate with friends and make new ones), browse for information, search and download media, chat and play games. They may:

  • search for information or content on search engines like GoogleBing and Yahoo
  • share images and watch videos through websites or mobile apps like Instagram, Snapchat, Vimeo and YouTube
  • use social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter
  • write or reply to messages on forums and message boards like
  • play games alone or with others through websites, apps or game consoles
  • chat with other people through online games, games consoles, webcams, social networks and tools like Whatsapp,

When online, children and young people can learn new things, get help with homework, express themselves creatively and connect with friends and family. Whilst the internet has many benefits it has many risks associated to it. As parents and carers it is our duty to understand and communicate these to help keep children under our care safe online.


Many risks have arisen with the accessibility and use of the internet by younger people. Whilst the recommended websites (below) cover the risks in depth and provide answers on how to deal with them we shall list them:

  • Identity Theft
  • Inappropriate Content – not suitable for age
  • Cyberbullying
  • Grooming
  • Pornography
  • Premium Rate Services – apps etc
  • Downloading illegal content


Sexting is sending sexually explicit messages and/or suggestive images. One example that you may have heard of is ‘nudes’. Despite the name, sexting is not only limited to mobile phones, images can be sent through any messaging service, including emails and social media such as Facebook or Whatsapp.

The law says that it is illegal for children under the age of 18 to take an explicit photo of themselves OR a friend, sharing these images is also illegal.

These include but are not limited to:

  • Suggestive images
  • Photos of girls where the upper body is exposed
  • Pictures showing explicit actions
  • Any image of private body parts

If a child under the age of 18 is found in possession of any sexual images, this can be recorded as a crime, meaning that if you take or share any of these types of image, you will be given a criminal record.

Sexting has affected both young people and adults in terrible ways. After taking inappropriate images, many have become victims of having those images shared publicly on social media, where their family and friends can see them.

It doesn’t end there. Many employers when considering job applicants will check to see if they have any social media accounts and what type of content they are posting. If there are nude images online of an applicant, they will be able to see these as well. What seems like a harmless activity can actually affect.


Minecraft is one of the biggest computer games in the world, with more than 144 million copies sold. It is a sandbox game where players can build houses and other creations, explore vast environments and play with other people online. Multiplayer in Minecraft – available through player-hosted and business-hosted servers – enables multiple players to interact and communicate with each other on a single world. It’s with this online element where some dangers can come from.

Main Concerns for Parents

Predators target children on Minecraft

The majority of Minecraft users are children, so it’s no wonder that predators may use the game to target them. Some adult players will even pretend to be children. There have been reported cases in which young people have been asked for explicit photos of themselves and even more serious cases in which children have been persuaded to meet these people in real life.


Even when playing with friends, your children are not 100 per cent safe on Minecraft. This is due to cyberbullying as so called ‘friends’ are given a platform in which they can throw mean insults in the way of your child, gang up on them with other players and make them feel like there’s no escape. Communication with strangers on ‘servers’

A huge part of Minecraft is played on online multiplayer servers where pretty much anyone can join. This means it is simple for players to have direct contact with strangers, which can lead to uncomfortable situations as not all strangers simply want a ‘fun game’. The fact that strangers don’t know your child personally may make it easier for them to be unpleasant due to the false perception that there are no repercussions. Servers are most prominent on PC and less so on consoles and other devices.


There are several websites that offer downloads for unofficial Minecraft add- ons. These often contain viruses that can infect your device and potentially even try and find personal information from you or your child.

Minecraft: Better Together

This is a new version of Minecraft that is currently being Beta tested on Windows, Android and Xbox One. It aims to allow players on different platforms to play with one another and uses public servers. While this can already be done on the original version of Minecraft, this will make it much easier for your children to play with and talk to people they don’t actually know. However, you do need to opt in to using‘Better Together’ and can carry on using the original version. This version should have a full release in 2018.

The full parent guide can be viewed here


Snapchat is a photo sharing app for mobile phones and tablets. The app allows users to share images for a limited number of seconds, chat with users before messages disappear, and share images with their friends list through a ‘story’.

Main Concerns for Parents

‘Snap Streaks’

‘Streaks’ tell users how many days in a row they have spoken or sent ‘snaps’ to one another. What’s dangerous about this? It forces young people into putting a false sense of importance on a superficial number to the extent that it becomes something that can make or break a friendship. For example, if a person forgets to message or send a picture to their friend, breaking their 200-day streak, this could cause a confrontation between the friends. This can put an incredible amount of pressure on children to keep streaks going with people, even if they don’t want to.

The ‘Snap Map’

Snapchat recently introduced a new feature called ‘Snap Map’, which allows users to see the EXACT location of the people on their friends list in real-time and watch stories from around the world. Users can view a map called a ‘Snap Map’. This feature completely exposes your child’s location and users can potentially follow your child from their home to their school. ‘Snaps’ can be screenshotted

While Snapchat’s gimmick is that all photos, videos and text disappear after a maximum of 10 seconds, users can still screenshot or save them. Users may sometimes forget that screenshotting is a possibility in the app and send an image to someone they trust.


Due to ‘Snaps’ disappearing soon after they’re received, (users can even send a one-second photo or video), Snapchat has become an ideal platform for sending sexually explicit images or ‘selfies’ to someone. The short amount of time gives children the confidence to send the pictures.

Once a photo/video has been screen shotted, this can lead to further dangers, such as blackmail and cyberbullying. It is illegal to make, possess, download, store and share sexual images, photos and videos of a person under the age of
18. This also includes any sexual images, photos and videos that a child may have taken of themselves.

However, if a young person is found creating or sharing images, the police can choose to record that a crime has been committed, but that taking formal action isn’t in the public interest.

Recommended Websites

We have compiled a list of websites on e-Safety that we’d recommend. There is some cross over and repetition of certain content on the various sites and therefore for your convenience we have commented on what we felt was the highlight of particular websites.

Internet Matters

Internet Matters is a independent, not-for-profit organisation. Their website is comprehensive and covers online safety for a range of age groups, discussing topics such as cyberbullying, online pornography, sexting, inappropriate content, online reputation, online grooming and privacy/identify theft. Furthermore, it features guides on apps, going mobile, social networking, chatting, online gaming, downloading and viruses and parental controls.

Website highlight:

The age specific sections which address internet usage, risks and provide a checklist and resources. The sections for pre-teens and teens are most relevant for parents with children in high school.

Safer Internet

Safer Internet is a website that has advice and resources for both young people and parents/carers. It has a research section and furthermore for your convenience it has signposted a number of organisations related to e-Safety.

Website highlight:

The ‘Have a conversation’ page, as it shares important conversation starters to open dialogue between you and your child on using internet safely. Note: there is a complimentary page on the Child Net website.


UK Safer Internet Centre

In addition to coordinating Safer Internet Day, the UK Safer Internet Centre delivers a wide range of activity to promote the safe and responsible use of technology:

  • founded and operates an e-safety helpline for professionals working with children in the UK
  • operates the UK’s hotline for reporting online criminal content
  • develops new educational resources for children, parents and carers and teachers to meet emerging trends in the fast-changing online environment
  • delivers education sessions for children, parents, carers, teachers and the wider children’s workforce
  • shapes policy at school, industry and government level, both in the UK and internationally, and facilitates youth panels to give young people a voice on these issues.

Child Net

The Child Net website is perfect for the diverse community we have at Loxford given it features parent guides in several languages. The ‘Supporting Young People Online’ booklet is available in English in addition to the Arabic, Bengali, French, Polish, Somali and Urdu languages.

Website highlight:

The highlight has to be the interactive e-Safety guide for parents and carers; it is available in multiple languages and even British Sign Language, which is great!

Parents and Carers Toolkit
The internet provides a space for children to communicate, explore, laugh and learn.

There are lots of ways parents and carers can support them in doing these things safely. This toolkit provides three resources that offer practical tips and advice on different aspects of keeping your child safe online. They can help support parents and carers of any age child to start discussions about their online life, to set boundaries around online behaviour and technology use, and to find out where to get more help and support.

Cyber Streetwise

Cyber Streetwise is the web portal of a government initiative whose focus is to help safeguard you, your family and your business from cyber crime.

Website highlight:

Become Cyber Streetwise using the To Do List’ questionnaire, that creates a tailored action list to make you Cyber Smart!

Parent Zone

The Parent Zone website has general information on parenting and a section dedicated to Digital Parenting with topical and insightful article that may interest you.

Website Highlight:

You can find the lastest and back issues of the magazine ‘Digital Parenting’ produced by Vodafone on the website. Links here: Issue 1Issue 2 and Issue 3

Think U Know

Think U Know is a CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection ) website. It has content for parents, carers and adoptive parents.

Website Highlight:

Live streaming: responding to the risks – Link

Live streaming is a popular feature of lots apps and platforms. By understanding the risks of live streaming you can help your child to stay safe when they are online.

A section dedicated to parents of children in Secondary School

Reporting Issues

Website Links