11/02/2014 08:06 GMT | Updated 12/04/2014 06:59 BST

Safer Internet Day for Parents and Carers

Today is Safer Internet Day. A day for parents and carers up and down the country to start a conversation with their children about staying safe online.

This years theme, 'Lets create a better internet together', recognises the balance between encouraging users to embrace the positive opportunities for creativity, fun and learning offered online, while responding to and dealing with the negative online.

For parents and carers this could mean maintaining an open and honest dialogue with their child about their online lives, supporting them with their online activity and seeking out positive online opportunities to share with them. These actions all start with a conversation. However, for many parents and carers, talking about online safety isn't easy.

To help parents get those conversations started today, the UK Safer Internet Centre has launched a Conversation Starter resource and SID TV will be streaming live for parents from 3pm and 7pm. In addition, hundreds of organisations across the UK are running activities for parents this Safer Internet Day.

At the UK Safer Internet Centre we have launched some research for Safer Internet Day that identifies the conversations that parents are having with their children about online safety. While it identifies some gaps for parents of both younger and older children, it does also show that many parents are engaging with their children about a range of key internet safety issues.

Supporting younger children

Increasingly, children are using technology at a younger age. This access provides them with endless creative opportunities, however, just like the offline world, it is important that rules and boundaries are put in place. Key messages for the primary age group include telling someone if something upsets them, protecting personal information and being a good online friend.

Our research published today by ComRes revealed that 41% of parents with 5-10s say that they have spoken to their child/children about what to do if something upsets them online. To reinforce how important it is for children to tell someone if something upsets them online, our free online storybook, Smartie the Penguin, is the perfect place to start. Parents can make sure that their children know that they can come and talk to them (without necessarily getting into trouble) if they see anything that worries them on the internet.

It is also worth making use of parental control tools, as children can be particularly upset by adult content at this age. Parents can find out more about how to set up parental controls on their home internet and on devices at the UK Safer Internet Centre's site.

Sometimes children can be very trusting with people they have met online. It is important therefore that they know to never share personal information or meet up with someone that they've only met online. Our research showed shows that 39% of parents with 5-10s say that they have spoken to their child/children about protecting personal information online, while 47% of parents with children aged 5-10 say that they have spoken to their child/ children about meeting strangers on the internet. To help children remember these important safety rules, Childnet's SMART rules are easy to remember and brought to life in a series of films, The Adventures of Captain Kara and the SMART crew.

Just like in the playground, children need to learn how to behave in a kind and considerate way online. They need to be shown how to be a good online friend, something just 27% of parents with 5-10s say that they have spoken to their child/children about. To teach children about being kind and respectful online we have a free online storybook called Digiduck's Big Decision that is perfect for parents and carers to share with their children.

See Childnet's guide to Keeping young children safe online for more advice.

Supporting young people from 11 to 15 years

As young people start secondary school, social networking becomes central to many young people's lives. This age group enjoys being in constant contact with their friends and peers, sharing images, exploring new friendships and relationships and keeping up to date with current trends. With all the positive opportunities that this creates, there are also risks which young people need to be supported to understand. Learning to make good online choices is key to addressing issues such as cyberbullying, sexting, pornography and online reputation.

It is important to reassure young people that they do not have to deal with issues alone. Cyberbullying is a clear example of this. Our research shows that 54% of parents of 11-15s had spoken to their child about cyberbullying. Childnet's film Let's Fight It Together can be used to show the effects of cyberbullying and to teach young people how important it is to be kind and respectful online.

Parents should also encourage young people to report cyberbullying or inappropriate content using the reporting tools on social networks. Our research found that only 30% of parents with 11-15s say that they have spoken to their child/children about how to report something online. Parents can talk to their children today about whether they know where to report on the sites they use, and use our guide about how to report for tips.

Sexting, the act of sending sexually explicit photos, can be a tough subject for parents and carers to talk to their children about. As our research shows, only 35% of parents with 11-15s say that they have spoken to their child/children about sexting. It is important to reiterate to young people the risk involved in sharing sexual images. Video chat can be recorded and even on services like Snapchat, where images are not directly stored, images can still be copied and shared. To start a conversation about sexting with your child, why not watch CEOP's Exposed film together?

Much like sexting, pornography can also be a difficult subject for parents, but it is really important to have these conversations. Whether young people are seeking it out intentionally, are curious or stumble on it accidentally it is vital that parents don't make judgments or overreact but are equipped with the right information to talk to their children about it. In light of our research, which shows that 43% of parents with 11-15s say that they have spoken to their child/children about online pornography, we will be launching a parent resource in the coming months to help parents have these conversations. In the meantime the have a film for parents about pornography.

Let's create a better internet together

Many parents are taking positive steps in talking to their children about staying safe online, but there is still more work to do to support all parents so they can have conversations with children of all ages about key internet safety issues. We all have a role to play in ensuring that parents and carers are equipped to have these conversations, and over the coming year we hope to continue the wider conversation about how we can create a better internet together.

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