AS children get used to their new tablets, smart phones and games consoles post-Christmas it would be fair to assume many will be spending more time online this year.

But, how can we really be sure our children are safe while they are online?

We know children are becoming increasingly concerned about what they sometimes encounter on the internet from the increasing number of calls on the subject to our Childline service.

For example, over the past three years there has been a 33 per cent increase in the number of counselling sessions held with children about online sexual abuse they have been subjected to.

Some children contacted Childline because they felt trapped and ashamed by their situation and were too frightened to talk to an adult.

Some were being blackmailed, while others wrongly felt they were to blame because they have participated in their abuser’s actions.

And figures obtained from the police by the NSPCC show that in the Thames Valley area alone, the internet was used as a gateway by offenders to commit 183 sex crimes against children in 2016/17.

It is vital parents talk to their children about being safe online, spotting the signs of inappropriate behaviour, and how to report it.

Online sexual abuse can take the form of grooming, child sexual exploitation, sexting, being made to perform sex acts on webcam, meeting up in person, and viewing distressing sexually explicit content.

It is vital parents sit down together with their children regularly to talk about online safety and how to get help if they need it.

Parents and children should:

•Explore sites and apps together.

•Talk about things they might see online which make them feel uncomfortable

•Talk about what is, and is not, ok to share online

•Reassure them that you won't overreact – you're just looking out for them

The web can be a fantastic place for children and young people to socialise, explore their interests, and learn, but every parent who has bought their child an internet-enabled device should be aware there are risks too.

The NSPCC website has help and advice for parents to get to grips with online safety and installing controls. to find out more.