Have you taught your kids how to stay safe online? Here are some tips

Research reveals 87 per cent of children aged between four and seven years old are using the internet, and 16 per cent of those are unsupervised.

The AFP has today released age appropriate conversations about online safety for kids aged from between five years old and 12 years old, and 13 years old and over.

The AFP is urging parents and carers to provide one of the most important life lessons to their children even before they start the 2024 school year – how to stay safe online.

Data shows just over half of parents and carers regularly discuss online safety at home but almost all children regularly use technology for educational purposes or entertainment.

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Research conducted by the AFP-led Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE) reveals 87 per cent of children aged between four and seven years old are using the internet, and 16 per cent of those are unsupervised.

Only three per cent of participants who participated in the research listed online grooming as a concern.

The AFP-led ThinkUKnow program has released a range of age-based tips and content to help parents and carers keep children and young people safe online across all stages of development.

Children and young people may use smart devices such as tablets for educational purposes, watching videos, playing games and social interaction. Children and young people can readily access the internet and technology in public places, schools and at home.

AFP Commander Helen Schneider said parents and carers needed to begin regular conversations with their children about online safety during early childhood to help children and young people understand the challenges they may face online and how to get help and support.

“We are urging families to ‘have the talk – the online child safety talk’ this year. We know about 52 per cent of parents and carers talk to their children about online safety, which includes topics like online grooming and inappropriate contact online, but we are aiming to increase this in 2024.”

Commander Schneider added:

“The AFP is urging everyone to continue the chat throughout their child’s development and stages of life to ensure they are protected every step of the way.”

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Commander Schneider said the ACCCE had received reports involving young children being able to access social networking, live streaming and instant messaging online.

“We have developed a range of age-appropriate resources through ThinkUKnow that help parents and carers navigate these conversations with their children, covering a range of online activities from video and image sharing, instant messaging and online gaming, along with using social media in a safe way.”

Commander Schneider said:

“ThinkUKnow is about providing Australians with the tools they need and empowering them to keep our community’s most vulnerable – our children – safe online.”

ThinkUKnow provides factsheets, videos, presentations, guides, children’s picture book Jack Changes the Game, home learning and family activities to help with these discussions including the following:

Under five years old

It is never too early to start teaching your child about online safety. Have these conversations as early as possible in an age-appropriate way.

  • Children in this age group are likely to be playing games and watching videos online.
  • Introduce and talk about what the internet is, and how it allows us to connect with other people.
  • “My phone is connected to the internet and I can send a photo from my phone to grandpa’s phone”
  • Supervision online is always recommended for young children. This looks different for every family, but it is important to be aware of what your child is doing online in case they need your help.
  • Implement strong privacy settings and consider parental controls on the devices your child uses. This can give you more control over what they do online, and limit the possibility of interaction with others.
  • Encourage your child to go to you if they see anything online that makes them scared or uncomfortable.


Between five years old and 12 years old

For this age group, continue building on the foundations of online safety.

  • Children in this age group are likely to be using the internet more, playing online games and watching videos. They may also be messaging with friends from school or family.
  • Research what apps, websites and games your child is using. Be aware of any that have a chat function that allows them to communicate with other people.
  • If you need to know more about an online game, one tip is to search online for videos of gameplay to get an idea of what it looks like and how it works.
  • Supervision is always recommended, and looks different for different families. Consider what works best for your child and your family circumstances.
  • Have open conversations with your child about what they do online, who they talk to and that if something goes wrong, they can go to you for help.
  • Implement privacy settings and parental controls, but balance this with regular check-ins and encourage critical thinking while online.


13 years and over

While older children may want to use their devices independently and want more privacy around their relationships and online interactions, it is still important to be engaged in their online activities.

  • Young people in this age group are likely to be playing online games, watching videos and using social networking platforms to interact with friends. 
  • Learn about the features of the apps, games and sites your child uses and the safety challenges so you can talk to them about implementing safety measures to keep them safe online.
  • Encourage ‘friends only’ or ‘private’ security settings.
  • If your child has public social media accounts, be aware of the privacy challenges and encourage your child to think critically about information sharing.
  • Your level of supervision or oversight may vary across this age group, however you should always stay in touch with what your child is doing online and encourage them to come to you for help and support.
  • Encourage your child to recognise safe or unsafe situations and inappropriate contact. This can empower them to make informed decisions, including when they are in unsupervised environments.


For all ages

Ensure your child knows that they can go to you for help and support if something goes wrong online.

If a child or young person is scared of how their parents or carers will react, they will be blamed for what happened, or have their device taken away, they may not seek help, making them more vulnerable to exploitation.

The ACCCE brings together specialist expertise and skills in a central hub, supporting investigations into online child sexual exploitation and developing prevention strategies focused on creating a safer online environment.

Members of the public who have information about people involved in child abuse are urged to contact the ACCCE. If you know abuse is happening right now or a child is at risk, call police immediately on 000.

If you or someone you know is impacted by child sexual abuse and online exploitation, support services are available.

Advice and support for parents and carers about how they can help protect children online can be found on the ThinkUKnow website, an AFP-led education program designed to prevent online child sexual exploitation.

For more information on the role of the ACCCE, what is online child sexual exploitation and how to report it visit the ACCCE website.

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