Top Tips for Staying Safe

Explore it together

Sitting down with your child and exploring their favourite app or game is a great way for you to learn more about what they like to do online.

You can ask them why they like to use an app or play certain games, as well as who they’re talking to and what sorts of things they’re sharing.

You can also read our Net Aware reviews for tips on how to keep kids safe on popular apps, sites and games.

Talk to your child about what they’re sharing

Help your child think about what they share online and who sees it. Compare it to what they would be happy to share offline.

Use examples that are easy for them to understand: “You shouldn’t give your number to somebody you don’t know on the street. Is somebody online you don’t know any different?”

Listen to their answers. And be positive and encouraging.

Remind them that they shouldn’t share private things, such as:

  • personal information, like names, emails, phone numbers, location and school names
  • other people’s personal information
  • links to join private group chats
  • photos of themselves
  • photos of their body, such as sexual photos or videos.

Get to know passwords and waiting rooms

All meetings on Zoom are now automatically password protected and have ‘waiting rooms’ enabled.

Every Zoom meeting has a nine-digit ID code that gives you access to the call, which also appears in the meeting link. The password protection means you need a password to enter the meeting, even if you already have the ID code. But those who enter using a link will not need to enter the password. It’s important to remind your child not to share Zoom links with anybody other than their friends. They shouldn’t share them on social media, in game chats or on group chats.

The best way to keep video calls just between friends or family is to ensure every meeting has a different password. Show your child how to do this and remind them to be careful with who they share the password with.

The waiting room lets the host selectively admit people who are waiting to enter the video call, if they don’t recognise someone they can choose not to let them in. Remind your child not to let anybody into a chat that they don’t know.

Check out Zoom’s website for information on setting up a password and waiting rooms.

Restrict screen sharing, renaming and virtual backgrounds

Zoom lets you screen share during video calls and add virtual backgrounds (images that appear behind each person). You can also change your name. This could lead to people sharing words, images or videos that your child might find upsetting or inappropriate. If you’re the host, when setting up the call, you can select that that only the host can screen share and that virtual backgrounds are switched off. You can also restrict participants’ ability to change their names.

However, this only works if you’re the host. When your child is chatting with friends, make sure you’re supervising them to make sure backgrounds are appropriate and talk to your child about what they’re sharing. We also recommend speaking with the other parents to make sure safety features are set up. (And the same goes for teachers!) Screen sharing and virtual backgrounds can be fun if used correctly and with supervision.

Zoom also has some helpful information on their website about how to manage participants in a meeting.

Explore all of Zoom’s settings and controls

Zoom has a lot of different settings and controls, some of which are intended for businesses but some may be useful to you as well.

Zoom has helpful information on all of their settings and controls, which we recommend exploring with your child before anybody uses the app.

But you might want to begin with Zoom’s advice on getting started, including setting it up securely on your desktop and mobile.

Know about the text chat feature

As well as being able to video chat, Zoom also has a text chat feature within calls. You can send a written message to the entire group or to individual people on the call.

This feature isn’t immediately obvious and some parents might not see this feature while they’re supervising their child. It’s important to be aware of the text chat as children could still be sent something upsetting or inappropriate here.

If you’re the host, you can choose who the other people can chat with or disable the feature altogether.

Check out Zoom’s website for information on controlling and disabling in-meeting chat, as well as how and where chat histories are stored.

Let your child know they can talk to you

It’s important your child knows they can talk to you if something worries them on any app, site or game. Because Zoom is made for businesses, there aren’t reporting or blocking tools like you get on a lot of other video chat apps. So, it’s important your child knows they can come to you if they see anything upsetting or negative. Reassure them that you won’t overreact – you’re just looking out for them.

And if they feel like they can’t speak to you, tell them to talk to an adult they trust, like a teacher or Childline.