“YOU are on mute!” was certainly a dreaded phrase during 2020 for me. I have even seen novelty mugs with it printed on!

And certainly, many of us had to find new ways of working and staying in touch via a virtual world in the pandemic. Last week’s Online Nation report from Ofcom was a revealing snapshot of just how the pandemic forced an accelerated migration to online services.

But sadly, for our children the research also revealed they had been exposed to online harm. More than half of 12 to 15-year-olds reported having a negative experience online in 2020. The most common experience, cited by 30per cent, was someone they did not know attempting to befriend them online. And a significant minority (18per cent) had seen something “scary or troubling” or content of a sexual nature that made them uncomfortable.

Net Aware, our website co created with O2, has put together some advice about what to do if your child sees something inappropriate online. I would like to share some of that advice, but remember it’s not always easy to stop your child from seeing something inappropriate online. Innocent searches can sometimes lead to not so innocent results. If your child does reveal that they have come across something that has upset them online, reassure them they’re not in any trouble. It is important to recognise how difficult it can be for children in these circumstances to open up. Reassure them they’ve done the right thing by coming to you and ask them to tell you how they came across it. This will give you an opportunity to discuss what is and isn’t appropriate for their age, and to discuss some of the apps, sites and games they can use.

The next piece of advice is use the right parental controls. Most devices have parental controls that can help you manage how your child spends time online but these settings can also help you to block content or sites, set watershed times and give overall content blocking ratings. For example, you can set them to high if you have young children, but as they get older you might change it to medium or low. Review the settings regularly to ensure they’re still working for your family.

Make sure your child is confident in using the block and report features on their app or game. If you’re not sure, use our reviews on net-aware.org.uk of popular apps and games. If the content warrants it or is illegal report this to CEOP. If your child is upset or anxious about what they have seen online also point them in the direction of Childline’s website. It has some great resources such as our Calm Zone, packed with tools and activities to cope with stress. Our moderated message boards are a safe way for children and young people to offer each other support.

Please know you’re not alone. Call the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000 or email help@nspcc.org.uk