Children face increased pressure when they first go back to school, often leading to anxiety and distress. Worse still, a recent study by Internet Matters of more than 10,000 school children shows they're far less likely to talk about problems that happen online than incidents that happen in person.
What's more, the people they're most likely to turn to with problems that occur in person (teachers and parents) are the people they're least likely to turn to with problems that occur online.
But don't worry – there's plenty you can do to help.
What are the challenges that children face
- 1 in 4 children 'sometimes can't sleep' because they're thinking about things that happen online
- 1 in 7 children spend more than six hours a day online, with 1 in 3 admitting that it's too much
- More children would tell the police instead of their parents about a problem that happened online
Children may also feel under increased pressure to develop their 'online personality', as well as the challenge of finding time to keep up with friends, or simply trying to feel part of a group.
What can you do to help?
It's important that parents encourage their children to open up about their online activities and to talk about what they're experiencing, especially if anything is making them anxious.
It's also a good idea to start an open discussion about issues they may be facing such as cyberbullying, sexting or seeing inappropriate content.
- Talk early and often
Start from an early age to normalise sharing and make it easier to maintain healthy communication. Keep conversations short so your child isn't overwhelmed and make sure it's always relevant to their life, hobbies and habits. "How was your day" can be a bit vague so try to be specific.
- Choose the right time
Make the most of time you're already due to spend together, such as mealtimes and bedtime. Children often employ delay tactics when going to bed, so it's the perfect opportunity to talk about their digital life and send them off to sleep with fewer worries.
- Open up and share too
Show your child how to behave by sharing your own thoughts and feelings too. Be open and encouraging, and as non-judgemental as possible.
- Create a safe space
Remember, you are helping not interrogating. When your child is talking, listen and stay quiet until they're finished. Then respond calmly with questions or advice, repeating things they've said so they know you're paying attention. This will help them feel at ease and more able to share with you.
Decode their one-word answers: videos and guides
Children and teens often avoid talking about situations by giving one-word answers such as "dunno" or "whatever". But what do they really mean? Watch Internet Matters's four videos to find out.
For extra help with all sorts of online problems, read tips and guides from our partner Internet Matters.
- Learn about many online issues including cyberbullying, inappropriate content and identity theft
- Get e-safety advice specific to your child's age and interests
- Understand their devices with our Parent's guide to apps and Parent's guide to tech
- Plus find many more guides, resources and articles on issues that matter to you