Inappropriate or explicit content

Get advice on supporting children if they've seen harmful or upsetting content online.

Types of 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 or worry them. We’ve got lots of advice to help you and your child if they have seen explicit or harmful content. Take a look at our resources for supporting children and understanding how they might feel if they see upsetting content.

We also have pages about how to identify and deal with different types of inappropriate and explicit content.

"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

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

Resources for supporting children

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 coronaviruswhat’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.

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.
      • they may have questions about what they’ve seen – you can get support for yourself by contacting our helpline to support you with tackling difficult conversations.
      • find out how they came across the content so that you can minimise the risk in future e.g. by blocking certain sites and setting up parental controls, or educating your child about following links.
    • 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 and make sure you review them regularly to ensure they are right for your family.
    • 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. We also have more information about reporting content on our online reporting page.

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.