Online conduct is how we behaviour online which could put us at risk or leave others feeling worried and upset.
How do I help my child to understand the difference between appropriate and inappropriate behaviour online?
Being kind and respectful online and behaving in an appropriate way towards others is something we should all be mindful of. The internet is a great way of connecting with other people and sharing information quickly and easily but just as we try to consider other people’s feelings offline, it’s important to do this online as well. Not everyone will find the same things funny, so even something sent or shared as a joke, such as a meme or funny photo or video, might not be considered funny by others.
The internet allows people to be anonymous and not share who they really are and some people may take advantage of this and use it as an excuse to behave inappropriately. They may think that because they cannot be seen, they can say or do whatever they like and sometimes even use this to make fun or intentionally hurt someone.
Keeping a young person with additional needs safe online is extremely important, but it is also important to talk to your child about their own online behaviour to find out whether they are interacting appropriately or not. Friends made online might not be aware that someone has SEND which can sometimes lead to misunderstandings in what is said or shared.
What do I need to know to help my child behave appropriately online?
Sending inappropriate content can upset others online
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Sharing the things we see online and offline on social media and games can be a really enjoyable part of being online. However, not everyone will like the same things and sometimes the things people share online can cause upset for others. It's important for young people to think about the things are sharing online and consider if other people could be upset, embarassed or worried by them. If this might happen then it's best not to share the content. Encourage young people to check with a trusted adult before sharing something online so you can decide together if it is appropriate.
Cyberbullying is never ok
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Cyberbullying is when someone is deliberately unkind to someone else online, most likely more than once. Unlike bullying in the offline world, the victim may not know who is behind the behaviour. Cyberbullying may include the sending of hurtful messages or pictures on social media, messages apps and games. Sometimes, the bullying can start out as a joke, or banter, and the person doing it might not realise how hurtful they are being. Cyberbullying causes a great deal of distress and a young person with SEND might not understand what is happening to them. Equally, if they start cyberbullying someone else, be it accidentally or on purpose, they might not fully understand the impact of of their actions. You can find out more information on our cyberbullying hot topic.
Young people shouldn't share naked or nearly naked images online.
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Sharing naked or nearly naked images of yourself or others online is called sexting. Young people could be influenced to sext because they are in a relationship, because someone sent one first or because a promise has been made in exchange for sending of one. Not all incidents of sexting are consensual. It might be that a person is emotionally blackmailed or coerced into sending them. Most devices have video or camera capability and despite the sending of these images generally being between two people, once they have been sent, they can easily be shared with a wider group of people. Sexting can cause a great deal of distress, both to the young person who has sent it and to young people recieveing it. Sharing naked or nearly naked images or videos of under 18s is illegal, even if it is sent by the young person themselves. Our sexting hot topic provides more information.
Top tips to help your child be kind and respectful online.
- Discuss cyberbullying. Talk about the difference between cyberbullying and face to face bullying. Encourage your child to always tell a trusted adult if someone is being mean online to them or someone they know. It’s equally important to talk to them about how they behave towards other people online and how cyberbullying can make people feel. Cyberbullying is never ok and acting quickly will help to stop the situation from getting any worse. These social media guides provide information on how to block or report messages, or people.
- Don't retaliate. Make sure young people know how important it is to not respond or retaliate if someone online starts to say or do unkind things. The best thing to do is to get help and tell a trusted adult straight away.
- Discuss when to like a post or comment. Encourage your child to only ‘like’ posts or make comments on social media of people they know in real life. Even though your child might think they’re being friendly by commenting on things from outside their friendship group, someone they don’t know in real life could misinterpret it or send a rude or upsetting reply.
- Talk about limiting the number of ‘likes’ or ‘comments’. If your child has a compulsive or obsessive tendency, the temptation to constantly like or comment on other people’s posts and this might make other people feel uncomfortable. (To avoid an unwanted situation online you could set a rule of one like per post or a certain number of likes per day).
- Discuss digital footprints. It’s always best to stop and think before posting something online. Talk about how other people can see what they post, and how it could be online forever. It is important to understand the difference between what is meant by ‘public’ and ‘private’ online.
- Discuss online respect. Being respectful online means being kind and considerate to others online and stopping to think if something is appropriate before it is sent or shared. Encourage your child to always tell a trusted adult if they think they may have upset someone online.
- Be supportive – Make sure your child knows that you are there to help and coming to ask for help is always the best thing to do. It’s important that young people know the people they can go to for help.
Have a look at some of our other hot topics to support your child online.