Inappropriate Content for Children

Help Kids Deal with Inappropriate Content
Learn what to do when kids come across something inappropriate online.

Kids are only a few key strokes away from finding anything online- information, games, videos, and music. Sometimes they find things we don't want them to see. They may not even be looking for it. Finding inappropriate content can be as easy as clicking on the wrong link or misspelling a web address.

The internet may seem like a scary world for children, but it doesn't have to be. Being aware of the inappropriate content kids may encounter online is the first step to dealing with it. 

What's out There?

There are a number of things on the internet not suitable for children. For example, it only takes a few minutes and a search engine for kids to find pornography. And while it is impossible to completely shield a child from sexual content, the open dialogue and supervision of parents and guardians is still key.

According to developmental pediatrician Dr. Sharon Cooper, "The more often a person is exposed to potentially harmful materials, the more normal it seems and the more desensitized the person becomes." Without the right guidance, children may develop flawed views and opinions of their self-image and sexuality.

In addition to sexually explicit materials, children may come across violent images or hate speech. There are also websites that encourage dangerous behaviors such as cutting, anorexia, and suicide. 

Posting Inappropriate Content

Seeing inappropriate content is not the only concern. Older kids may join social media websites to share pictures and things they find interesting. Most of the thinks kids post are harmless. However, it is important to go over the things that are inappropriate, including:

  • Hate speech
  • Pranks
  • Offensive language
  • Threats of violence
  • Underage drinking or drug use

There can be immediate and long-term consequences for posting inappropriate content online. Kids could:

  • Damage their reputations.
  • Be punished at school if what they post breaks school rules.
  • Be charged with a crime if they are breaking a law.
  • Have difficulty getting into college, getting a scholarship, or getting a job in the future.

[1] Normalization of Sexual Harm , NetSmartz® Workshop, (October 04, 2007).


What can I do?

Thinking about all of the inappropriate things children can find online can be overwhelming. However, there are things you can do to protect them.

  • Keep the lines of communication open so children are comfortable talking to you about the things they see online.
  • Consider using filtering and monitoring software for computers and mobile devices.
  • Teach them what to do if they see inappropriate content. They can turn off the screen, use the back button, tell a trusted adult, or report it to the website or app where they found it.

Discussion Starters

Start the conversation!
Use these discussion starters to talk about inappropriate content with every age group.

Ask younger kids...

  • What do you like to do online?
  • Have you ever seen something online that made you feel sad, scared or confused?
  • What would you do if you saw something online that made you uncomfortable?

Ask older kids…

  • What does the word “inappropriate” mean to you?
  • Have you ever seen anything online that you would consider inappropriate? What did you do about it?
  • Would you tell me if you saw something online that made you uncomfortable? What can I do to make you more comfortable talking to me about these things?