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Online safety basics

Help your children safely navigate their digital world, and educate them to avoid harmful online experiences. Explore websites, games, apps and social media together, and set some rules. 

Your support and guidance can give your children the knowledge to make sound decisions online and confidence to ask for help when they need it. 

Three key strategies


  1. Be engaged, open and supportive

    • Get involved with your child’s online activities as a family. Play games together. Talk about favourite apps, games or websites.
    • Keep lines of communication open. Ask about their online experiences, who they are talking to and whether they are having any issues.
    • Reassure your child they can always come to you, no matter what. Your child may not communicate openly about things that worry them online if they fear being in trouble if they tell you. Let them know you will not cut off internet or device access if they tell you they’re feeling uncomfortable or unsafe online.
    • If you notice a change in your child’s behaviour or mood, talk with them about it. If you are concerned, consider seeking professional help – from your GP, a psychologist or school counsellor.

  2. Set some rules

    • Set rules for devices and online access, with consequences for breaking them. As they grow in online skills and maturity you can review your rules together. 
    • Get your child’s input — this will help them understand risks. 
    • Model behaviour that you would like to see. Children will be more likely to follow rules if they see you doing the same.
    • Consider creating a family tech agreement (sometimes called a family media plan or family online safety agreement). This is a set of rules about how devices are used in your home as well as acceptable online behaviour. eSafety has created downloadable templates for families with children under 5 or those with kids aged 5 to 8 years. For families with older children, The Family Online Safety Contract from ThinkUKnow Australia is a good starting point.

  3. Use devices, games and apps carefully

    Get to know the devices you and your children use and set them up for privacy and online safety. Take advantage of parental controls to monitor and control screen time and access to content, based on your child’s age and experience. See our guide to parental controls.

    Choose apps and games carefully, and visit the App Store or Google Play for age ratings and consumer advice.

    Refer to our advice about screen time and online gaming if these are of concern.

    The eSafety Guide provides valuable information about the latest games, apps and social media, including how to protect your personal information and report harmful content.

    You can visit the Australian Classification Board’s online database, Children and Media Australia and Common Sense Media (US) for information about movies, apps, games and websites, searchable by age.

Advice for different age groups

Click on the tabs to find out how to help your child based on their age.

Screen reader users: Select a button below to change content below it. You can skip to the expanded section directly by skipping to the heading.

Screen reader users: Select a button below to change content below it. You can skip to the expanded section directly by skipping to the heading.
Under 5s

Under 5s

Online activity can offer children under 5 opportunities to learn through exploration, play and social interaction. It can also help develop their digital literacy and learning. 

But there may be risks if they use connected devices without supervision or for extended periods of time. Your child may accidentally come across content not designed for children, be exposed to potential contact with strangers and miss out on physical activity. You can find more information in the eSafety Early Years – Online safety for under 5s.

Advice for parents and carers 

  • Take the time to find content that is right for your child’s age and understanding, and aligns with your family’s values. See are they old enough?
  • Limit the time your child spends online to ensure a good balance with physical activity. See screen time.
  • Try to stick to the rules you set – not giving in to demands for more time will help instill good online habits for your child now and in the future. See our family tech agreement for under 5s.
  • Start the conversation about safe and respectful behaviour online. It is never too early to do this and to help your child understand that what they say and do online is important. See good habits start young.

Technology tips for parents of preschoolers

  • Ensure your own devices are protected by a password or PIN, so your child cannot accidentally go online without you.
  • Set parental controls on your computer, phone and any other devices your child will use so you can restrict available content to apps and sites you have chosen. Choose a handful of sites you are comfortable with, and bookmark them on the device your child uses. You can add to the list as they get older and need greater access. See parental controls.
  • Check out Raising Children Network’s healthy screen time and quality media choices: 2-5 years.
Kids 5-12

Kids 5-12 

As children start to navigate the online world and interact with others more independently, they are more likely to be exposed to risks of bullying or unwanted contact, to accidentally come across content not designed for children or to rack up bills through in-app purchases.

Your guidance can help them be aware of the risks and understand what is expected of them. Let them know you are always there to support them.

Advice for parents and carers 

Keep the computer or device in an area of your home that can be supervised. Check in regularly with your child to see what they are viewing.

Stay engaged with their online activity. Consider setting up your own accounts with the sites they use most, or simply browsing the content, so you can see how they work and understand the risks. Show good privacy habits by asking your child before sending them a 'friend' or follow request. If they say they don't want to connect with you online, it may be a good opportunity to talk about risks and rules.

Explore the online world with them to help establish that you can share online activities as a family. You might want to play games with them or do a creative project together.

Think about social media readiness. Most social media sites require users to be at least 13 years old before they can register, although some sites are created especially for children under 13. See are they old enough?

Encourage respect and empathy. Teach your child to avoid sharing or posting things that may upset others. See good habits start young.

Start building resilience. Explain to your child that there are ways they can deal with material that worries or frightens them. This includes immediately telling you or another trusted adult of any concerns or uncomfortable material. See good habits start young.

Encourage them to learn about online safety by exploring the kids section of this site.

Technology tips for parents of kids 5 to 12

  • Ensure your own devices are protected by a password or PIN, so your child can’t accidentally come across content not intended for children.
  • If you are thinking about giving them their own tablet or smartphone, check out are they old enough?
  • If your child does have their own device, avoid logging into your own accounts on that device. This will prevent any content you have stored in the cloud that may not be child-friendly from synchronising (downloading or sharing to) your child’s device.
  • Use parental control tools you feel are right for the age and experience of your child. Be upfront and get your child on board. Let them know these can be reviewed and changed as they get older, if they show responsible behaviour. Consider installing a ‘child-friendly’ search engine that will allow them to explore a limited number of sites. See parental controls.
  • Check out Raising Children Network's healthy screen time and quality media choices: 6-11 years.
Young people 13-17

Young people 13-17

Teenagers can spend a lot of time online. Instant messaging, sharing photos and videos, playing games and using voice chat through social media services can be a big part of their social identity. 

It can be a great experience but there are risks. You can help them develop the skills to manage these risks and deal with negative situations.

Advice for parents and carers

  • Take an interest in younger teens’ online activities to encourage them to keep sharing with you. Have an ‘open door’ policy when devices are used in bedrooms, and check in with them regularly to see what they are viewing.
  • Older teens may want greater privacy when using devices. Have a conversation with them and work out together the best approach for your family.
  • Stay engaged. Ask about their online experiences, who they are talking with online and whether they are having any issues.
  • Reinforce the importance of protecting their personal information and privacy. Remind them to create screen names or IDs that do not indicate gender, age, name or location and are not sexually suggestive. 
  • Encourage them to use social media responsibly. Terms of use for each service cover the rules for using the site, the type of content that can be posted and any age requirements. Go through these with your child to make sure they understand what is expected of them.
  • Explain that linking social media accounts and other apps can make it easier for strangers to learn about them, so it’s best to keep account sign-ins separate. 
  • Encourage them to think before they post. They should ask questions like: Who might see this? Could it be misread by others? Am I creating the right image for myself socially and for school and work opportunities?
  • Remind them that they could expose themselves to risk by sharing sexually suggestive or intimate images of themselves or others. Check out our advice on sending nudes and sexting.
  • Keep building their self-respect, empathy and resilience. In particular, be aware of the impact of social media on self-esteem. See good habits start young.
  • Help them understand online risks and what to do about them by exploring the young people section of the eSafety site.

Continue to review your rules as your child grows older

  • Be clear about where and when devices can be used – for example, not at mealtimes or not until after chores or homework are done. 
  • Agree on a plan that fits into family routines – for example, more screen time on the weekend when they have less schoolwork.
  • Refer to our advice about screen time and online gaming if these are of concern.

Technology tips for parents of teenagers

  • Use parental controls you feel are right for the age and experience of your child – see parental controls.
  • As they grow more independent and resilient,  trying to communicate openly with them becomes more important than blocking or filtering content – realistically your teenager will become increasingly skilled at getting around parental controls anyway.
  • Check out Raising Children Network's healthy screen time and quality media choices: teenagers.

Get help and support

Raising Children Network

Advice for parents and carers, including articles, videos and apps backed by experts.

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Resources for parents

Audio

Parents are often in the dark about what their children are viewing online.

With growing access to smartphones, computers, and other devices, your child can be exposed to violent, dangerous, or sexually explicit material from an early age.

It's important to educate kids and teens about the dangers of inappropriate content, and what to do if they see or receive something disturbing.

Especially for young kids, online devices should always be where you can see them, so you can stay involved.

Sharing the online experience, filtering content, and talking with your kids is vital to ensuring they see the best – and
not the worst – online.

Because all kids deserve to be safe online.

Inappropriate content

An animated introduction exploring the risks of children coming across inappropriate content online and how to help manage what children access on line.

 

Information sheets

Last updated: 12/07/2024