If your child has come across something upsetting online, the first thing to remember is to ‘stay calm’. If an adult in a child’s life reacts strongly, the child can sometimes mimic the anxiety and concern of their caregiver(s) even when the young child doesn’t understand the reason for the anxiety.
What negative content might children encounter?
Along with many positive things, children may encounter some things online which could have a negative effect. This material might include:
- Scary images,
- Images of violence,
- Sexual images or text, from mild to very explicit pornography,
- Hateful content,
- Illegal material, e.g., child sexual abuse material, age restricted material, bestiality, necrophilia, or extreme violence.
How might they encounter it?
Children are often curious about some of the above content, but it is also easy for them to come across these things accidentally, or against their will. A friend may forward a chain letter, an older sibling might show them an image, they might follow a link in the history of a web-browser or a link that is designed to look innocent but actually hosts harmful material.
After the event
It can be helpful to provide context for what they have seen so that they can understand how the material was made, whether it was real, how the material fits with your family’s values. It is important to give the young person a chance to ask questions. This discussion is important even if it seemed it was ‘no big deal’ at the time.