Worried your child has shared too much online?
It is easy to share things online that you wouldn’t face to face. Some of the most popular sites and apps are designed to enable people to share information, pictures and videos. This is part of their popularity but it can make it easy to share things we later regret.
If you think your child has shared too much about themselves don’t panic. It’s rare that things get out of control, but even if they do there are ways you can respond and organisations who can help.
What are the risks?
Once information has been shared online, particularly pictures and videos, you can never be sure who has seen it, saved it or shared it.
Personal or embarrassing information in the wrong hands can lead to bullying.
Knowing that others have seen embarrassing things about them can cause stress and anxiety, and affect a child’s confidence and self-esteem.
Unwanted information online could affect educational and job opportunities later in life.
People with a sexual interest in children can use personal information online to work out if a child might be vulnerable or ways to attempt to groom them.
Sharing images, particularly sexualised images, can increase the likelihood of a child receiving inappropriate sexual contact from strangers online.
What can you do?
If you find out your child has shared too much personal information online you should first assess the risks by considering the following questions:
What did they share? Was it a picture, video or personal information when chatting? Are they embarrassed by the content and if so why? Could the information be used to locate them?
Who did they share it with?
Many apps allow you to share with an individual or a small or large group of contacts. Find out how many people might be able to see the content your child has shared.
Do they know the people they’ve shared it with? Have they met them face to face? If they’ve shared something with school friends are they worried about what they will do with the information?
Was it shared with someone they don’t know? If they have never met the person face to face,find out what else your child knows about them and whether they have been in contact since. Ask if they have at any point, felt threatened in any way. Have they been asked to share inappropriate images? If so, this is a matter for the police. You can either contact your local police or report to CEOP
If you have suspicions about someone your child has shared information with you can report to CEOP.
You should report any concerns about online grooming or sexual abuse to CEOP.
How to take control
The quickest way to get content removed from the internet is for the person who posted it to take it down.
If your child posted the image using their account on a social media site, ask them to log in and delete it.
If someone else posted the image or re-posted it, ask them to delete it on any sites they’ve shared it on – your child’s school may be able to help identify them.
If you don’t know who has posted it, or they refuse to take it down, then report the image to any sites it’s been posted on. All major social media sites have ways to report content. It’s not guaranteed that they will take it down but if it breaks their terms and conditions or ‘community guidelines’ it should be removed.
Some sites don’t have reporting processes. If the content is a sexual image you can report it to the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF). Sexual images of anyone under 18 are illegal and the IWF can work to get them removed from sites which don’t have reporting procedures. You can report directly to the IWF and children can call ChildLine who work with the IWF.
If someone is using personal information online to bully your child, don’t take matters into your own hands or retaliate, you should speak to their school urgently.
If your child feels threatened by someone who they only know online you should report to your local police. If they are acting sexually towards your child or asking them to do sexual things you should report to CEOP.
There are organizations that can help if you or your child get into difficult situations on the internet or your mobile phone. The following guidelines will help you to decide which channel to use.
If you know about a child who is in immediate danger and you need an urgent response, always call 999 and contact the police.
If you are suspicious or know that a child is being groomed by an adult on the internet, then you should report directly to the police and you can do this online, see www.ceop.gov.uk.
Remember that wherever you experience a problem online you can make reports to the provider of the site or service you are using — look out for Report Abuse buttons or how to flag inappropriate content on social networking sites for example.
If you come across content online which you think might be illegal, such as indecent images or video of children, or racist material, then you should report this content to the Internet Watch Foundation, and you can do this online at www.iwf.org.uk.
If you know a child who is upset by any contact they have had with anyone they have met on the internet or mobile phone they can always call Childline in confidence on 0800 1111 or visit the NSPCC’s There4me website (www.there4me.com ).
Who can you report cyberbullying to? Well it really depends on the seriousness of the bullying, and where it is happening. Either way it is a good start to report it to the provider of the service where the bullying occurred, whether that is a website owner, a social networking website or a mobile phone operator. It helps to keep records of bullying emails or texts as evidence. If you child is being cyberbullied by pupils at school then you should talk to the school.
Using premium rate services, such as purchasing ringtones, or TV voting, is very popular. If you have problems with such services, if your child has an unexpectedly high bill for example, then you should contact your mobile phone operator. If you want to make a complaint about such a service, then you should contact the premium rate service regulator, PhonePay Plus, see www.phonepayplus.org.uk/.
You can find the contact details and websites for all these organisations here on the Think You Know website for parents.