What is digital resilience?

Parent Zone CEO, Vicki Shotbolt, explains how you can make sure your child has the tools they need to navigate the online world safely and successfully

What is digital resilience?

Digital resilience is part of your personality that develops from spending time online and facing the challenges out there. It means you recognise when you’re at risk online, and that you know what to do.

A resilient child is more likely to stay safe if anything bad happens, and benefit from the opportunities the online world provides.

How can I help?

The best thing parents can do is to set boundaries so children know what they can do and what they can’t – and then let them explore.

They will make mistakes, but to learn they need to take risks. When they get into scrapes, it’s essential you let them learn from them and help them recover. Then let them try again.

Who else can help?

Everyone has a part to play in building a child’s resilience. Having safe spaces to explore and take age-appropriate risks is vital, so industry has a big role, building services that young people can enjoy with proper safeguards.

Schools can teach critical-thinking skills so children can make sensible judgements about what they’re doing and seeing, and work on soft skills, like empathy and self-esteem.

Is resilience the same as toughening up?

Absolutely not. Children need to take risks and learn that they can recover when things go wrong. But that’s not the same as expecting children to toughen up when bad things happen. Getting help and resolving problems is important.

What you can do

by Dr Richard Graham

Left to their own devices, young people are unlikely to develop greater resilience and understanding without some opportunity to share their experiences with adults,” explains Dr Richard Graham.

“We may not understand all the apps or devices they use, but we do have thoughts about what is good and bad in the world, and sharing values is a fantastic way for young people to process their experiences. Finding ways to discuss some of the more challenging content they come across, whether pornography, ultra-thin models or animal cruelty, can help young people. “When we cannot bear to speak about difficult issues, or we try to shut them down, they become more, rather than less, frightening. What has been seen cannot be unseen. Talking together makes a difference.”

Dr Richard Graham is Consultant Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist, Nightingale Hospital and London Digital Mental Wellbeing Service 


Vicki Shotbolt and Dr Richard Graham are co-chairs of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety’s Digital Resilience Working Group

Promoting digital resilience in real life

A worrying image

Jacqui noticed that her eight-year-old, Tiana, had become withdrawn – she left the room when the news came on and didn’t look at her phone as much as normal. Jacqui asked what was wrong, and Tiana said that she’d seen a photo of an elephant being shot online, and she was upset and scared to log on. Jacqui talked to Tiana about how she felt and ways to avoid it happening again, such as using Google SafeSearch (see Tools, p41) and using more relevant words when searching online. Jacqui let Tiana know it’s important that she tells someone in future if anything upsets her, and encouraged her to go back online when she felt ready.

Going public

Jamie, 13, wanted to create a public YouTube account to perform magic tricks. His dad, Sam, was worried Jamie was too young to cope with negative comments, and that predatory adults may contact him or try to track him down in real life. Jamie explained that there is a huge, supportive network of young magicians out there, and his own channel would let him join in. They talked about posting videos safely, not revealing his contact details or location, how to report inappropriate approaches, and who Jamie could talk to if anything upset him. Jamie initially posted videos with comments turned off, turning them on when he felt more confident.

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