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Internet safety

​​​​​Starting the conversation

Getting started

Children and young people are spending more and more time in online environments, with smart phones, laptops and hand-held devices that allow them to communicate in different ways. Although the internet has had a major impact on society over the past 20 years, today's children and young people have grown up online without either them or their parents understanding the potential risks they face on a daily basis. The internet can be fun and useful but you and your child need to have an understanding of the online environment and how to make it safe. Making sure your child knows the online dangers is just as important as teaching them to cross the road safely.

To enable parents and carers to understand some of the risks, you should try thinking of social media as a physical place like a bar, restaurant, cafe or shop - another ‘place’ where young people go to socialise and meet up with friends. To help keep them safe, parents need to take an active interest in what they are doing, where they are going and who they are interacting with – in the same way that you would if they were going into town, to the sports centre, or any other physical place. Would you let your young person or child go out for the afternoon to Glasgow or Edinburgh without adequate supervision or would you let your 14-year-old go to a bar for a few hours by themselves? Make sure you are switched on to the ways young people are communicating with each other.

These pages have been produced to inform you of the dangers, give you some practical solutions to reduce the risk for children and young people and the opportunity to attend a free online safety workshop.

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Further information: aims to raise awareness about child sexual abuse, answer questions and give adults the information, advice, support and facts they need to help protect children. Find out what to do if you're worried about anything you or your child has seen online. This free online safety workshop is designed to increase parents’ awareness of bullying and the other risks and challenges children and young people can face online.


Passwords are an essential part of modern society and are your first line of defence when it comes to cyber-crime. They are used so that web sites can identify each user and to prevent users from impersonating each other.​​

It is important to remember that it will not be a person that guesses your password, it will be a computer. A ‘brute force attack’ (also known as a ‘trial and error method’ or ‘dictionary attack’) is where a computer will methodically work through all possible passwords beginning with A then AA, AB and so on until it stumbles across your actual password.

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Home routers – setting controls

Your home router is one of the most important pieces of equipment in your home as it gives all your Wi-Fi devices ranging from smart kettle, smart TV and computers, access to the internet. All routers come with a default wireless key and admin password set when manufactured.

Why change my password
This password is used when you want to change any of your router's settings - for example what devices use your router and how long these devices can get access to the router. This facility can be used to only give children access to the internet between 8am to 8pm.

Why change my wireless key
The wireless key is extremely important as it is your encryption setting for your router. This means all data sent onto the internet is encrypted. Therefore the data cannot be read without the encryption key.

If you have not changed the wireless key on your home router then it is the default key which is set by the manufacturer. This is a problem as it is not difficult to crack the key and if someone knows your key then they can see the internet traffic sent by your router onto the internet for example​ passwords and interfere with your social media.

It is recommended that you change your wireless key and admin password to your router. You can use the following links.

​Internet service provider​Web site



​Virgin media


Hyperlinks for parents to talk to – Barnardos, Childline, Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) website and report button.


One of the major recommendations that we suggest is that parents and carers have an open line of communication with young people/children. As you look at these resources we recommend that you think about how you can start the conversation. If your young person/child wants to start using social media then we suggest that you set the account up with them.

The internet has been and continues to be a fantastic facility for not only social aspects of life but also as an educational tool and should be embraced as a facility that literally opens up the world with your fingertips.

Today’s children and young people are almost certainly fully immersed within the cyber world, probably more so than those who have not grown up with this technology.

However just as you would be mindful of what’s right and wrong, good or bad behaviour and picking up all those little hints and tips over time about being safe when we’re out and about enjoying ourselves – the internet needs similar awareness and rules.

Think of the internet as a public place, like a park or a busy high street and ask if you would want all those people who you may or may not know being able to see, hear, share, listen, and even join in to your child’s or young person’s personal sometimes private events, photos or conversations. Parents and carers would certainly want to know more if you saw your child or young person talking to someone you didn’t know in the street or park. This is the same with the internet.

Within this site you will find advice and information on a range of common issues and difficulties around how to engage with young people over internet use, how to choose a good and secure password and general information to make the internet world a safe and responsible environment for all to use and visit.

Listen to Respect me podcast in which Claire Gilfillan talks ​to Brian Donnelly, previous Director of Respect Me, to discuss its work tackling bullying behaviour in the classroom and online.​

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Can't view this video? You can also view this clip on Glow​ (log-in required).​

Where will my child chat/communicate?

The internet lets users chat with friends and family in interactive 'virtual' communities. These communities (e.g.​ Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat) are increasingly popular with children because they allow them to communicate in real time'.

Real time means their contributions (or 'posts') are displayed immediately, for example in an online chat or wall. However, not all virtual communities will be moderated or supervised.

The following are examples of tools that your child may use to communicate with others online:

  • Social networking sites are online communities of people (eg Facebook) - users have a number of different ways of communicating with each other.

  • Instant messaging services (which look like small pop-up windows) let users see when people on their 'friends list' are online and send messages to them.

  • Online gaming is becoming increasingly popular with young people. As well as competing with each other online, online gaming communities (eg: xBox Live and PlayStation Home) allow young people to talk, form teams and swap ideas.

  • Chat rooms are 'virtual' rooms where users can 'talk' to each other by typing, either one to one or involving a number of people.

  • Forums are online discussion groups - these discussions can take place in real time or over a longer period (users can continue to add comments).

  • Blogs are like online diaries - the 'blogger' publishes comments and discussions and readers can also add their views (blog is short for 'web log').

All popular social networking sites offer advice to parents on how to keep young people safe online. For example, Facebook, Twitter, ​Snapchat​ and Instagram provide useful information to parents on protecting users of their website.

ConnectSafely has published free, downloadable parent guides to Snapchat and Instagram.

The NSPCC Share Aware website provides information to help you keep your child safe on social networks.

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What online danger​s should I be aware of?

The internet can be fun and useful but you and your child need to know the risks too. Making sure your child knows the online dangers is just ​as important as teaching them to cross the road safely.


Unfortunately, some adults with a sexual interest in children will use the internet to communicate with young people. Online grooming is when an online predator behaves in a way that suggests they are trying to contact children for illegal purposes.

Sometimes online predators pretend to be children themselves and start online conversations with real children. They may try to continue the relationship in personal conversations on mobile phones (sometimes known as whispering) or private chat rooms.

Once they have established some trust, the offender may try to organise a meeting with the child. This may take weeks, months or even years.

As part of the grooming process, the offender might also try to exploit the child by sending them indecent or pornographic images. This might be by email or sometimes by using a webcam (a camera connected to a computer, which can produce still pictures and video footage).

The offender may even use blackmail to persuade the child to do something they don't want to. It is vital your child knows that not everyone on the internet is who they claim to be. It's also important that both you and your child report anything suspicious.

Online bullying and stalking

Online bullying takes many forms and includes posting/sharing comments which are insulting, abusing or in some cases threatening. It usually takes place on social media via devices connected to the internet such as laptops, iPads, smartphones, gaming consoles etc. Online bullying is not victimless and can have a significant impact on the person being targeted. In addition some forms of online bullying may be a criminal offence, such as Stalking, which involves sending persistent and unwanted communications intended to annoy, harass or frighten the person receiving them.

respectme, Scotland's anti-Bullying Service, offers advice on cyberbullying. You can access this via the respectme website.

The Childline website also offers advice regarding online bullying

Reporting suspected grooming or online child sexual abuse

You and your child can report any concerns via “Report Concerns” link on the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) centre.

Choices for Life Be Smart Peer Mentoring Programme

An online safety training programme under the Choices for Life banner, titled “Be Smart Peer Mentoring Programme” (Be Smart). Designed in conjunction with global cyber security giant, Trend Micro, to address the key vulnerabilities facing young people in the online environment, such as online safety, reputation and bullying. It’s open and interactive format encourages young people to consider the risks and consequences of their online behaviour, whilst empowering them to stay safe and in control when online.

“Be Smart" - as part of the Choices for Life programme, delivered by Police Scotland on behalf of the Scottish Government - aims to create a team of young people (including senior school pupils), youth workers and parent groups who will be equipped with the tools to 'start the conversation' with young people about online safety.

These local groups such as youth clubs, swimming clubs and football clubs should then deliver training workshops to their peer groups in communities across Scotland. Using videos, which feature Police Scotland Youth Volunteers, the sessions focus on prevention messaging to help safeguard young people and explain how online safety needs to be integrated into all our everyday digital activity.

The Choices for Life Be Smart programme is an excellent way to encourage young people to think carefully about the way they behave online to ensure they get the most out of what the internet has to offer but, most importantly, to ensure they remain safe and supported at all times. An adult programme is available which provides parents, guardians and adults with some basic advice that will give you the confidence to 'start a conversation' and learn with and from the young people about their online activity and s​afety.

By making sure young people know where to access information about staying safe online and providing a peer network to discuss any issues they may face we can create a positive online presence for all.

Link to Choices for Life website.

Link to Young Scot website.

Stop it Now! Scotland

Stop it Now! Scotland is the national programme for the prevention of child sexual abuse.

We work to make Scotland's children and young people, and our communities, safer by:

  • providing information about child sexual abuse and sex offending
  • providing practical tools to help people prevent child sexual abuse from happening
  • providing services to individuals concerned about their sexual thinking or behaviour towards children or young people.
  • working in strong partnerships with other agencies and organisations to make Scotland safer.

Stop it Now! Scotland provides leaflets and a parents pack "What's the problem?" regarding the online activity of young people and what they should look out for.

Further information on curbing sexual abuse of children on the Stop It Now website.

SafeSpot Website and App

SafeSpot is a helpful website and app that aims to help children and young people access coping strategies and resources to help them manage difficult situations. Find further information on the SafeSpot website.

Related links

NSPCC - Online safety

ParentPort - Online safety

Get Safe Online - Safeguarding Children

Choose.Net - Staying safe online: parental control software

CEOP's Thinkyouknow for parents and carers

WizCase - Guide to safe internet browsing​​

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