The 4 C’s of Online Safety

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Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

The 4 C’s of Online Safety

In today’s modern era, the internet is very much part of our everyday lives, presenting both opportunities and challenges. The digital landscape, especially social media, plays a pivotal role in the lives of our children as supported by findings in a 2022 Ofcom report. This report revealed that 33% of parents of 5 to 7-year-olds and 60% of parents of 8 to 11-year-olds reported that their child had at least one social media profile. Therefore, it is important to be aware of potential online safety risks.

The phrase the 4 C’s of Online Safety was introduced by the statutory guidance for schools in England, Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) in 2021. This framework categorises online safety risks into four groups: Content, Contact, Conduct and Commerce. It enables educators, tasked with the safeguarding of children and young adults in their care, with a systematic method to identify, understand and tackle potential online dangers.

This article outlines the 4 C’s of Online Safety – Content, Contact, Conduct  and Commerce. It details how each aspect influences our attitude and management of online safety risks.

1. The 4 C’s of Online Safety: Content

The first of the 4 C’s of online safe, Content, includes the extensive range of digital material, entertainment and media found online, including websites, apps, games and social media. While much of this content is beneficial, like educational materials, there exists content that is misleading, inappropriate and harmful. Children should be encouraged to critically evaluate online content that they view, recognising that not all of it is beneficial and some may be harmful. Strategies to mitigate exposure to harmful content include the implementation of filtering and monitoring systems to restrict access.

2. The 4 C’s of Online Safety: Contact

The second of the 4 C’s of online safety, Contact, refers to the online interactions and connections between individuals. Some of these interactions can be harmful, including those with online predators or exposure to inappropriate content through peer pressure. Educating children and young people about the dangers of online communication and fostering an environment of open conversation is important. Encouraging healthy digital relationships and critical thinking to identify and react to unsafe or exploitative online actions is important.

3. The 4 C’s of Online Safety: Contact

The third of the 4 C’s of online safety, Conduct, focuses on the behaviour of children and young people online. The anonymity of the internet can sometimes lead to negative behaviours. This category emphasises the importance of respectful and responsible online interactions, including content sharing and community participation. Guiding youth towards positive online behaviour and discouraging cyberbullying and other negative actions is essential.

4. The 4 C’s of Online Safety: Commerce

The fourth of the 4 C’s, Commerce, deals with the commercial aspects of the online world, such as advertising, online shopping, in-app purchases and the risks of online gambling and scams. It’s important to educate children about internet-based financial transactions and the significance of protecting personal and financial information from online scams and the persuasive tactics of digital marketing.

In summary, the 4 C’s of online safety offer a comprehensive framework for safely navigating the digital world. They enable educators to pinpoint critical online safety risks and equip children and young people with the knowledge to identify and manage these risks effectively. Through cultivating a critical approach to digital content, promoting positive online interactions, teaching ethical online conduct and understanding the nuances of online commerce, we can empower our children to safeguard themselves and foster a safer, more respectful digital environment.

Our online safeguarding courses give you the tools to establish strong safeguarding practices across your organisation and boost your confidence in addressing safeguarding issues.

If you would like more help choosing the best course for yourself or your organisation, you can get in touch with our friendly customer service team by calling us on 01327 552030, emailing us at, or using the contact form on our website.

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