- Communicating with others online can allow children to connect with other people who may share similar interests and views, and this can be very positive and beneficial. Children may consider some of their online-only contacts to be friends.
- Children may also use online services to manage and build their friendships with friends they first made offline (e.g. school friends or friends from their local community). As these friendships take place both offline and online, they can be considered different to online-only friendships as the identity of that friend is not in doubt.
- Just like offline friendships, online friendships can have their difficulties. Disagreements, mistakes and misunderstandings can all take place online as they can offline. Because contact may take place through messages, it can sometimes be harder for children to recognise how others are feeling as they cannot see a person’s facial expressions or body language, or hear the tone of their voice.
- Talk to your child about what they can do if they have problems in an online friendship. Discuss the importance of apologising for something that upsets or offends others, even if it was accidental. For some friendships, it may be more appropriate for them to speak to their friend offline to resolve an issue.
- Discuss friends and followers with your child. Remind them that, while it can feel good to have lots of online contacts, adding people you don’t know to your lists may allow them to contact you more easily or see more of your personal details. Encourage your child to consider carefully who they add to their friends or followers lists.
- Encourage your child to be kind and respectful to others online and to support their friends whenever they can. This could be by helping them with a problem, doing something positive to cheer them up or supporting them to get help from a trusted adult.
- Talk to your child about pressure from friends online – what sort of things do their friends do/say that makes them feel this way. Discuss ways that they could deal with these problems; you could help them learn ways to say ‘no’ or to tell others about how they are feeling when they are feeling pressured or uncomfortable.