16th December 2021

The things I wish my parents had known…Young people’s advice on talking to your child about online sexual harassment

Today we launched a guide for parents and carers on online sexual harassment and how they can support children to stay safe online.

The things I wish my parents had known…” draws together advice from 16-21-year-olds on how parents should manage tricky conversations around sexual harassment and access to inappropriate content, including pornography. No child should have to stumble across harmful content online, and my office is taking action to try and tackle this issue. But, in the meantime I wanted to provide support and guidance for parents now on how to support your child if they do come across harmful content online.

An overriding message is that parents should start these challenging conversations early. Our focus groups suggest broaching topics before a child is given a phone or a social media account, which is often around the age of 9 or 10. The guide focuses on issues such as:

  • Easily accessed online pornography
  • Pressure to send nude pictures
  • Sexualised bullying
  • Editing pictures and body image
  • Peer pressure

The aim for the guide was to pull together these challenging (often seemingly unapproachable) topics for parents in an accessible way. We see this guide as the ‘starting point’ for parents to begin confronting the issues with their children. There are signposts to the excellent resources of other expert organisations, including NSPCC, Childnet and Internet Matters, throughout the guide.

This is the latest in a series of wider projects addressing online harms, culminating in a recent roundtable with tech companies, holding them to account for the effects of services they provide as part of our contribution to the government’s new Online Safety Bill. This work has been hugely bolstered by the support of ministers Nadhim Zahawi MP, Secretary of State for Education, Nadine Dorries MP, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, and also Children and Families Minister Will Quince MP, and we look forward to taking even greater strides next year.

The guide and summary poster can be found here.