• As social networks and other online services cater for a wide range of audiences, ages and communities around the world, it is always likely that content will appear online that may upset others. What people find upsetting or offensive can vary greatly but there are some common types of content that are known to upset children.
  • Online, younger children could encounter upsetting content that includes swearing, hate speech, violence, animal cruelty or sexual themes. This could be in the form of entertainment content (such as images/clips from TV shows, movies, music or video games), user-generated content (things that other users have recorded/created themselves and shared or other media content (such as a news report detailing wars/conflict or a charity highlighting the mistreatment of animals).
  • Illegal content can also be posted and shared online, and this not only has the potential to significantly distress a child but also breaks the terms of service of the network, as well as the law. Such content can include images or videos of crimes being committed, explicit content depicting physical harm or death, or images/videos of child abuse.
Kevin L'École des Réseaux Sociaux
  • Depending on your students’ experiences and use of the internet, you may wish to discuss some of the types of content that may be distressing. Children may be keen to express opinions about content that shouldn’t be online, particularly content related to hate speech, animal cruelty and harm of children. Discussing these opinions and what children can do to protect themselves and others can be very empowering for them.
  • While it is important for children to be protected from distressing and illegal content online, it is virtually impossible to ensure they will never encounter anything that may be upsetting. Therefore it is vital to discuss with your students what to do if they do encounter anything that worries or upsets them. Strategies used can vary from child to child.
  • A good strategy for younger children is to encourage them to find a way of deactivating a screen (or turning it face down) on a device so they can longer see the content, then to tell their parent or carer or another trusted adult immediately. This will the parent or carer to return to the device to view the content, take steps to prevent it from being seen again, and then discuss with their child what they have seen. They can then answer any questions and offer reassurance.
  • For older children, you may wish to empower them to deal with upsetting content by working together to find the reporting tools on the apps and games they use. This will allow them to be able to report the content to the network who can then take steps to remove it. You should still encourage your students to tell a trusted adult about anything upsetting they have encountered, so that the parent, carer or any other trusted adult can offer support and reassurance or seek further help if required.
  • Talk to your students regularly about what they see and experience online. If they are regularly experiencing things that worry or upset them on a particular app or game, then you could work together to possibly find an alternative that offers a more positive experience.