Keeping children safe
Caring for your children dealing with domestic and family violence or online abuse can be very challenging.
There are ways to help your children stay connected online while keeping them, and you, safe.
A safety plan is an important first step and should include information to use when you're at home and out of the house. Work with your case manager to develop a safety plan that will help you and your children.
It's important to anticipate how the person abusing you might react, in case they become more upset and dangerous while you are making safety changes.
On this page:
Online safety rules for children
Start by talking with your children about rules you can all follow to help keep them and you safe.
For younger children, you can set the rules. For older children and teens, you can create the rules together. It's important that they play a role and feel empowered in helping your family to feel safe.
Suggested rules for staying safe:
- Avoid posting location details online or sharing them with anyone. This includes address, suburb and school, as well as any clubs, shops, and friends or family that they visit.
- Avoid posting photos online for now. This may continue to be important as photos can give away information about locations without you realising.
- Avoid checking in, or checking anybody else in. Ask your trusted family and friends to do the same.
- Avoid tagging family members online until things are safer.
- Turn off location services on devices, apps and platforms until things are safer. This will ensure photos do not have the location embedded in them, and that the devices – and the location – cannot be tracked easily.
How to talk with your child about tech abuse
Use these talking points to reassure your child:
- The violence is not their fault. They have the right to be believed and feel safe. They may need to change their online habits or how they use their devices for now, but this is not because they have done anything wrong.
- There are people who care for them and can protect them. You may want to help children and young people draw up a list of trusted family and friends with contact numbers and emails.
- They may need to adapt new online habits. For example, if the abuser wants to ‘friend’ them on social media that might be unavoidable. Instead, they might need to be more cautious about what they post.
- What information is not safe to share. For example, not sharing your address, when you go out, who you are in contact with. Children and teens may need your help to practice answers to predictable questions to keep them safe. Sometimes this is really hard especially when they are pressured by others, like the abuser or other family members.
- Safer ways to communicate with others. This might include using messaging apps you agree on - providing you know all the contacts on the apps. Also, you might show them how to hide the app if the abuser is near or has access to their device.
How to support your child through tech abuse
Here are some suggestions for how to support your child:
- Reassure them. Tell your child none of the violence is their fault and they are loved. Allow them to talk about the violence if they want to. Keep your language simple and do not include more detail than they need to know.
- Help them to understand the safety plan. Work with your case manager to help create an age-appropriate safety plan that includes technology for your child.
- Keep your daily routine the same as much as possible. This includes any bedtime rituals, TV shows they like to watch and food they like.
- Technology is so important to your children and how they interact with the world. Include kids in the conversation; ask them what they like and dislike about being online. Let them know that any steps being taken now are being done to keep them safer for now and they can continue to use technology safely into the future.
Like you, your child’s behaviour may be affected by the stress and their confused feelings. Try to stay calm and show them love with words and kindness, even when it seems very difficult. Your support worker will be able to help with some strategies for you to practice.
They may have many outbursts that are hard for you to manage so seek professional help through your GP or case worker. The Raising Children Network has good tips to help manage behaviour.
Support services for children and young people
5 to 25 year olds. All issues. Confidential phone counselling available all day, every day. Online chat available 24/7, 365 days a year.
12 to 25 year olds. All issues. Phone counselling and online chat available 9am to 1am AEST, every day.
See counselling and support services to find a support service that's right for you or your child.
You may consider speaking to your child’s school, TAFE or university, if you feel comfortable doing so. Talk to the welfare officer, counsellor or student wellbeing officer.
Keeping devices safe
You may want to have a separate device that your child or teen can use at home and at your partner’s house – even if it is a very old device – so they can safely keep their contacts and communication on the home device.
Remember, be careful if your partner has recently given your children new phones or tablets and insists that they take them with you when they return to your home. If your partner has a history of using technology to find out information, it is likely that this behaviour will continue or may become new behaviour especially after separation. For more information see our online safety checklist or contact 1800RESPECT.
It can help to learn about how your child uses technology. eSafety has more resources to help you understand how you and your children can stay safe online.