Online safety advice for parents and caregivers
Follow these tips to help keep your family and whānau safe online.
Keeping your family safe online
Talk to your children
The internet is a great place to connect with family and friends, learn, play games and watch videos and TV programmes. But it can also have downsides for our tamariki, rangatahi and young people. They may be exposed to pornography and other inappropriate content, bullied and ‘groomed’ by sexual predators without even realising it.
- Figure out what they already know.
- Let them know you will support them no matter what.
- Talk about who they can reach out to if they need help.
- Talk about ways to report or remove harmful content.
Netsafe has more information about how to talk to your children:
The Classification Office has resources to help start the conversation with children about what they are watching:
Information for parents and whānau — Classification Office website
Understand online challenges
Children and tamariki find the internet an easy place to:
- explore their identity
- challenge adult norms and boundaries
- experiment with relationships
- practice a range of behaviours.
But there is a risk of:
- online bullying
- unwanted contact
- sending and receiving nude content
- seeing inappropriate content (such as pornography).
You can better support children and tamariki when you understand the challenges they face online.
Netsafe has more information:
Manage screen time
Think about the age and stage of your children, and understand how they use the internet.
Are they using it to:
- communicate and create friendships, or
- create music or videos?
This will help you decide how much time you’d like your children to spend online.
Netsafe has more information:
Know the rating
Movies, TV programmes and games are rated by the Classification Office.
Shows made for sites like Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime are not rated. If you’re not sure if a show is suitable, watch it yourself first.
Check the rating to make sure it’s suitable for your child's age.
The Classification Office has more information:
What is online bullying?
Online bullying (also known as cyberbullying) is bullying that happens on mobile phones, computers, or tablets.
It can happen through email, SMS, social media, or apps.
Online bullying is sending, posting, or sharing: negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone.
It can include using personal or private information to embarrass or humiliate someone.
Online bullying is unique because it is:
- Persistent — the internet is 24 hours a day, so it can be hard for kids to get away.
- Permanent — if content is not reported and removed it can impact your kids in the future.
- Hard to notice — as new apps and social media platforms become available, it can be hard to know what is happening.
How to keep your children safe from online bullying
- Set expectations and stay calm – talk to your children about what they do online and what you want them to do.
- Understand and evaluate the situation.
- Understand how your children are being affected.
- Don’t take away their devices, as they might be receiving support from their friends as well.
- Work through a plan together — How to create an online plan.
Visit Netsafe for more information:
How to deal with online bullying
You can deal with online bullying by reporting it to the social media platform or by blocking the number on your child’s phone.
Visit Netsafe for more information:
You can report, lock content and unfriend people on social media.
You can block phone numbers that are sending bullying or abusive messages.
To find out how, search “how to block phone numbers” and the model of your phone. Or you can contact your service provider to block numbers or disable the account that texts come from.
Contact the school
If the bullying is happening at school you can contact your child’s teacher.
If you need help to do this, you can ask Netsafe.
Where to get help
if you or someone you know needs help:
Freephone: 0508 NETSAFE
The Netsafe helpline is open:
- Monday to Friday: 8am to 8pm.
- Weekends: 9am to 5pm.
If your child needs counselling:
What is grooming and online grooming?
Grooming is when an adult tries to build a relationship with a child so that they can sexually exploit them.
Exploitation isn’t always physical, it can happen online.
Groomers try to build an online relationship with the child though social media, chatting in a forum, chatting in an online game or via any other platform for online communication.
Some groomers will use a fake profile (similar to catfishing) and pretend to be a young person. Others will use their actual profile if they aren’t very old themselves. They might pretend to have an interest in common, or to have a friend in common, if they can gain this information by looking at the young persons’ profile on social media.
If they aren’t already talking to the child using private or direct message, they’ll try to move the conversation somewhere private online where others can’t see. The groomer will try to get close with the child and will sometimes spend a long time doing this (even months or years) before seeking anything sexual such as nude or nearly nude images or videos of the child or having a sexual conversation with them.
If you want to learn more about how groomers get close to children and how they keep control, you can refer to Netsafe.
Where to report
The Covert Online Investigation team is a specialist police unit that protects children from online abuse.
If you are concerned about objectionable material online, see How to report a crime or incident.
You can also contact Netsafe for help and advice:
- Free text: ‘Netsafe’ to 4282
- Freephone: 0508 NETSAFE
- Advice for parents about online grooming
If you have seen objectionable material online such as child sexual abuse you can report the content to the Department of Internal Affairs.
Where to get help
Safe to Talk – Sexual Harm Helpline:
- Text: 4334 and they will text you back.
- Email: email@example.com
- Online chat: Visit safetotalk.nz & click on the “chat to someone” button on the bottom of the page
Understanding social media platforms
Social media is part of life for many people. Most children use social media to share pictures, videos, chat, or message. Social media allows them to stay in touch with their friends. Used appropriately, social media can help children interact, develop and learn new things.
But social media also brings risks, such as online bullying, grooming, sextortion, harassment.
Visit Netsafe for information on how to minimise risk:
Tips to keep children safe
- Understand what your children are using — search online or on the app. Check the age requirements, for example, most social media sites are for children over 13.
- Set up rules — agree with your child when and how to use the apps. For example, they give their devices to you overnight, agree that you approve any apps.
- Teach your child about sharing information responsibly — For example, don't share personal details, such as a home address, phone number and school. Use privacy settings to prevent a stranger from contacting your child.
- Make sure your child understands what can happen — For example, their posts can be shared or transformed to bully them.
Visit Netsafe for more information:
- Bullying and abuse
- How to create an online safety plan
- How to use privacy settings on social networks
- Social media advice for parents
- Understanding a digital footprint
Netsafe has information about platforms, risks and how to change settings, including:
The Department of Internal Affairs has downloadable factsheets about:
- TikTok — Tips on how to stay safe
- YouTube — Protecting yourself
- House Party — Tips on how to stay safe
- and more.
How to talk to your child about pornography
In today’s digital world it’s very easy for children to come across pornography. This can happen by accident, as most sites are free and don’t require any type of age verification, or intentionally out of curiosity. While children might see porn for the first time by accident, teens are more likely to be seeking it out.
It's normal for young people to be curious about sex. The best way to support them is to have open, honest conversations about what they might see and how it’s different from real sex and relationships.
How to approach the conversation with your child
It can be challenging to talk to your child about porn. Conversations about sex and pornography can be awkward and you might feel like you have no idea where to start.
- Choose the right moment
- Listen to what they say.
- Let them know porn doesn’t reflect reality.
- Discuss sexual consent and respect.
- Be patient.
Visit the Classification Office and Netsafe for more advice:
- How to talk with young people about pornography
- Advice on how to talk to your child about porn
- Growing up with Porn — Insights from young New Zealanders aged 14 to 17
- Talking with young people about pornography (PDF, 129KB)
- Talking with young people about what they're watching
If you are worried about your child
For more information for parents and whānau around pornography The Light Project website.
Use parental controls and privacy settings
Technological options like parental controls will help your child stay safe, but no solution is 100% effective. It is important to talk to children about online safety to encourage responsible behaviours and to help them develop digital resilience.
Research shows that regular conversations at home helps to minimise the harm if things do go wrong online. For tips and advice to support conversations with your family/whanau check out Netsafe’s Online Safety Parent Toolkit.
Types of parental controls
There are three main types of controls to help you to filter, restrict and control the content your child can access:
- Network controls, set on the hub or modem from your ISP (Internet Service Provider), which apply to all devices connected in the household.
- Device controls, which can be set in the device, such as laptop, iPad or smartphones.
- Platform or application controls, which can be set directly on the application settings, such as YouTube or Google.
ISPs and Internet safety
An ISP is a company that provides third-party access to the Internet. Customers simply use their modem to connect to the ISP, which then links them to the Internet automatically.
When choosing a provider ask yourself these questions:
- What is its Internet policy? They should have one.
- Do they provide any Internet Safety Service?
- Do they provide access to filtering software?
- Do they have "safe" website access?
You can contact your ISPs to find more information about internet safety, parental controls or questions about settings.
Parental control on devices
For information about parental controls on Apple, Google and Window devices, check out Google Products:
- Chromebook Parental Controls (YouTube video)
- Restricted Mode on YouTube (YouTube video)
- Android Family Link
- Google Safe Search (YouTube video)
- Google Internet Safety (YouTube video)
- Google Online Safety Centre (YouTube video)
- Apple Family Safety Centre
- Parental Controls on iOS (YouTube video)
- Mac Parental Controls (YouTube video)
Use privacy and security settings on platforms
Each online platform has information about its policies, tools and resources on safety, for more details;
- Facebook Safety Center
- Google Safety Center
- Instagram Safety tools
- Oculus Safety Center
- Snapchat Safety Center
- Twitter: A safer Twitter
- Xbox Responsible Gaming
- TikTok: Privacy & Safety
When students learn from home they are not protected by the school's content filter, so it is important to take extra steps to make sure they stay safe online. Here are some free ways to block the biggest risks:
- Find where you can change DNS settings
- Change the settings to Switch on Safety, and
- Test the device to check if it works
Each device has different settings. Here you will find information and instructions on how to block the content in your kid’s device (Chromebook, MacBook, Windows 10, iPad, Android and Windows).
You can also use the ‘Switch on Safety’ setting on your own devices. The setting includes Google Safe Search and more.
It is important to protect the information you and your child share online. If you’re not careful, people can steal or misuse it.
On social media, both adults and children can share information, pictures, videos and messages. Lots of people can access your child’s information without asking.
Many social media platforms don’t have privacy settings for the profile picture or basic information.
- check the privacy settings of your child’s social media accounts(link to privacy settings)
- follow people your children have met in person and unfollow ‘unofficial’ pages
- don’t share your location on social media platforms
- think about the content you add in your bio and your profile picture.
Protecting your privacy online — CertNZ
Protect yourself online — Privacy Commissioner
Streaming services, on-demand content and gaming
If you see something on a streaming service, on demand, or in a game that may be inappropriate for children:
- Have a look at the parental controls offered on the platform. They are usually in the profile settings.
- Taking control: How to make the most of parental controls — a guide to parental controls for some of the main providers, for example Netflix, NEON, Lightbox, YouTube, Amazon Prime, and gaming sites like Steam, PlayStation and Nintendo.
- If you have already set parental control and laid a complaint with the provider and the content is still easily accessible to children, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can find information on how to manage your child's account, age rating and parental controls on the following gaming platforms:
Reporting online harm or illegal content
There are a range of organisations you can report harmful content to. Each of the organisations covers a specific area of content and has a role to play in protecting people from harmful and objectionable content online.
- The Covert Online Investigation team is a specialist Police unit that protects children from online abuse. If you are concerned about objectionable material online. See, How to report a crime or incident.
- Netsafe helps people and schools experiencing harmful communication online, including harassment, bullying, abuse, grooming and privacy breaches under the Harmful Digital Communications Act. If you see any harmful content online, you can report it here
- The Classification Office is legally responsible under the Classification Act for determining if a film, video or publication is illegal or banned in New Zealand. If you suspect or think the content should be illegal or banned, you can contact the Classification Office.
- The Department of Internal Affairs is responsible for enforcing the Classification Act. The team investigates complaints and prosecute people who collect and distribute child abuse material online and ensures publication considered to be objectionable are not available to the public. You can report objectionable material here.
Once these agencies receive your complaint or query, they will investigate and get in touch with the provider about the content in question.
You can also report through the social media platforms if you see any harmful content, such as bullying and harassment.
How to report
Online Safety Parent Toolkit
Netsafe’s Online Safety Parent Toolkit is a 7-step guide to digital parenting.