Tips on how to stay safe online during the COVID-19 pandemic

Media, misinformation and scams

The global impact of COVID-19 means young people, like many of us, are spending more time at home — and more time online. There are lots of great ways children can use connected devices to learn and play, but there are also risks.

At present, it is difficult to visit a website, turn on a television, listen to a radio or open a newspaper without being confronted by coronavirus. Even social media apps have introduced links and pop ups for information about it. 

While it is important to stay informed, it is just as important to be mindful of the fake news and misinformation that is being spread across the internet – and to help your children make sense of it.

How can I protect my child?

  • Select one or two trustworthy and reputable information sources for your news, to avoid false reports and unscientific claims. The major national, state and territory news services provide regular online, television and radio bulletins.
  • For the latest COVID-19 essential information from government agencies across Australia, visit australia.gov.au.
  • Encourage your child to check how reliable and credible the sources are -- eSafety has tips for primary school children in our Kids page How do I know if something is fake and for older children in our Young People page Fake news.
  • Teach them skills like respect, responsibility, resilience and critical reasoning — it is never too early to instil good habits and these skills will help them make sense of the information they are consuming.
  • Set safety, security and privacy settings on devices, games and apps at an age-appropriate level.
  • Be aware of scams and teach your child how to spot and avoid online scams.
  • Don’t click on text message links about COVID-19, even if they look like they are from the government — scammers are exploiting the hunger for information to spread phishing, malware and fake business scams. Australian Government agencies will never send a text containing weblinks.
  • You can report scams to Scamwatch.
  • Set boundaries around your own screen use and stick to them — this can help maintain balance and provide a positive example for your child. You could even fill in an Early Years Family Tech Agreement.
  • Be an upstander by calling out bad behaviour and ensuring that the content you share online is respectful and honest.
  • Ensure they know where they can turn to for help — you can have more conversations about online safety at home, tell them about Kids Helpline or support networks, or provide them with the tips listed in this advice.

What can I do if my child is feeling scared or anxious?

  • Turn off notifications and use apps or built-in features to monitor or limit how much time you and your child spend online.
  • Try other activities like reading something you enjoy or playing games.
  • Look for positive stories of people who are working to minimise COVID-19, caring for sick people, showing acts of kindness or collaborating in community efforts.
  • Reach out to people in your child's support network to see if they can provide online or telephone support.
  • Regularly check in to see if your child is okay. Let them know that you are there for them and that they can talk to you anytime. Then do something fun together!
  • Contact a free parent helpline or one of the other many great online counselling and support services for advice. Kids, teens and young adults can contact Kids Helpline online or by phone on 1800 551 800 and the service also provides guidance for parents.

Remember: Build an open trusting relationship around technology — keep communication open and supportive so your child knows they can come to you if something goes wrong or does not feel right online.

More information

You can find further guidance for keeping children safe online in eSafety’s downloadable ebook COVID-19: Global online safety advice for parents and carers 

Topics covered:

  • Top tips to help protect your children online
  • Media, misinformation and scams
  • Time online
  • Parental controls and safe search options
  • Unwanted contact and grooming
  • Online pornography
  • Sending nudes and sexting
  • Cyberbullying
  • Online gaming
  • Help seeking and self-care