Inappropriate or explicit content

Find out what inappropriate content is and how to support your child if they've seen something online that's upset them.

Upsetting coronavirus content online

Seeing news or information about coronavirus online or on social media may be upsetting for children and young people. They may feel anxious or worried about what’s happening and be overwhelmed by the amount of news and content people are sharing about coronavirus. They may also be seeing fake news, including alarmist or distressing content.

It’s really important to talk to your child about how they feel about what’s happening at the moment and to let them know they can come to you or a trusted adult if they’re upset by something they’ve seen online. We’ve got advice for parents and carers on talking to children worried about coronavirus that can help you support a child experiencing anxiety or depression.

Children and young people can also find advice on Childline if they’re worried about coronavirus, what’s happening in the world, or how to spot fake news online. Childline also has tips to support young people struggling with anxiety or panic attacks.

What is inappropriate or explicit content?

As children start to explore the internet, they may come across content that isn't suitable for their age, or that may upset them or worry them. Inappropriate content can include:

    • terror attacks, beheadings and bombings
    • cruelty to humans and animals
    • self-harm sites 
    • pro-anorexia and eating disorder content
    • pro-suicide content
    • sexual abuse and rape
    • violence and distressing content
    • hate sites
    • online porn.


Worried about a child?

If you're worried about something a child or young person may have experienced online, you can contact the NSPCC helpline for free support and advice. Call us on 0808 800 5000 or contact us online.

Children can contact Childline any time to get support themselves.

Get support

Taking, sharing and receiving explicit images

If you're worried your child may have been taking, sharing or receiving inappropriate or explicit images, it can help to: 

      • talk to them about what they're sharing or have seen, and if they know who else has seen the pictures
      • remind them that people online may not be who they say they are 
      • explain that they should always think carefully about what they share online, as once it's been sent, they lose control of it 
      • suggest they download the Zipit app on Childline to help them deal with requests for inappropiate photos 
      • let them know they can always come to you if they see anything that worries or upsets them online.

Help remove a nude image or video online

If you know a young person who has had a sexual image or video of themselves shared online, and they’re under 18, talk to them about Childline and the Internet Watch Foundation's Report Remove tool.

It allows young people to discreetly report a nude image or video shared online, to see if it’s possible to get it taken down. Young people can get support from Childline throughout the process. They just need to follow 3 steps:

1. Follow the instructions to prove their age. They may need ID for this.
2. Log into or create a Childline account so they can receive updates on their
3. Report and remove: the IWF will review it and work to have it removed if
it breaks the law.

You can also see advice on how to support a child with pressure to share nudes on our sexting page.

"It would be very nice if, online, they wouldn’t say ‘Be careful who you’re talking to, they might not be who you think they are’, and instead they’re saying ‘If anything at all makes you even slightly uncomfortable, then you can talk to someone."
Jess, 17

If your child has seen inappropriate content

Sometimes, innocent searches can lead to not so innocent results.  And sometimes, children may look for things because they're curious.

It’s important to know how to reassure young people and help them know what to do and where to go for support if they see inappropriate content online.

If your child has seen inappropriate content online, you can:

    • talk with them about what they've seen – let them know what is, and isn’t, appropriate for their age.
    • reassure them they can come to you, another trusted adult or Childline if they're worried about something.
    • get advice on setting up parental controls.
    • avoid ‘sharenting’ or sharing explicit or inappropriate content you’ve seen online to raise awareness. Sharing content of physical or sexual abuse is illegal and can be upsetting to the child and others who come across it.
    • report any inappropriate, illegal, explicit, identifying or distressing content to CEOP through their website. You can find about more about reporting content on our sexting page.
    • block any distressing, inappropriate or upsetting content on social media websites. You can learn how to do this through Net Aware, in partnership with O2.

Children may experience lots of different emotions when they see inappropriate, upsetting or distressing content online. It’s important to talk to your child about what they’re doing online and let them know to come to you if they see anything that upsets them.

Children who see inappropriate content might feel:

    • confusion or uncertainty
    • shame or guilt
    • shock or disgust
    • sadness
    • excitement or happiness.