WHO IS YOUR CHILD TALKING TO?
- Do you know what your child is doing online?
- Has your child joined a social networking site like Facebook and pasted up their photos?
- Do you know how many e-mail and live chat accounts they have or monitor what forums they talk on?
- Do you know what sort of websites they visit?
In a recent survey, 59% of children used social networking to connect to people they didn’t know and 43% of children said their parents did not set rules for internet usage. 29% would give their home address to strangers met online in a chat room (quoted at a seminar given by Urban Saints in 2008).
We all want our children to be free to explore the world and to enjoy twenty-first century technology; we want to respect their right to privacy. However if you wouldn’t leave your children open to abuse from strangers in the real world, don’t forget to protect them in the cyberworld as well.
In a poll of 1000 children discussed in a Guardian newspaper article (August 7, 2008) it was found that children spent an average of one hour a day on social networking sites; this included nearly a quarter of children aged between 8 and 12 who were evading the age restrictions imposed by these sites. Two-thirds said they posted personal information on their pages, including their school and their mobile phone number. A fifth of the children questioned claimed to have met strangers they had encountered online.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Work WITH your children. Show them that you trust them by helping them to learn how to be safe online. These are some practical internet safety tips from the Urban Saints Seminar.(www.urbansaints.org)
- “Spend some time surfing the internet yourself. The more that you know about the internet, the better able you are, in turn, to help your child navigate around it without coming to any harm.
- Know what your children are doing online and who they are talking to. Ask them to teach you to use any applications you have never used.
- Get to know your child’s online habits. Children are inquisitive. They will look to explore the internet as much as they do the real world. Knowing the sites they go to, the people they meet there and what they do will help to keep children safe.
- Help your children to understand that they should never give out personal details to online friends —personal information includes their messenger id, email address, mobile number and any pictures of themselves, their family or friends—if your child publishes a picture or video online—anyone can change it or share it.
- Always keep communication open for a child to know that it’s never too late to tell someone if something makes them feel uncomfortable. Tell your child they can always talk to you or another trusted adult, such as a teacher, if they do end up in some sort of trouble on the internet. Make children aware that there are things on the internet which may distress them.
- If your child receives spam / junk email & texts, remind them never to believe them, reply to them or use them. It’s not a good idea for your child to open files that are from people they don’t know. They won’t know what they contain—it could be a virus, or worse – an inappropriate image or film.
- Help your child to understand that some people lie online and that therefore it’s better to keep online mates online. They should never meet up with any strangers without an adult they trust.
- Stay alert to any sudden changes in mood or appearance, or to any major change in habits or to increased secretiveness. These are often tell-tale signs that something is not right.
- Teach young people how to block someone online and report them if they feel uncomfortable.
Consider installing internet filtering software showing a BSI Child Safety Online Kitemark on your computer. These programs enable you to screen out or block access to particular types of web site or particular types of material e.g. those which offend your religious beliefs or cultural values. Amongst other things, these same programs can also limit the amount of time your child can go on the internet, or stop certain games or other programs from running at all on their machine. They can often also allow you to monitor or receive reports on your child’s use of the internet, the computer, or both.
They are not a complete answer, nor can they cover all the risks associated with other internet issues such as cyber bullying, privacy, video sharing and social networking. Nor should they be used as a substitute for a parent learning about the internet for themselves and talking to their children about its safe use. However they are helpful used as a tool especially with younger children.
Filtering products with a Kitemark logo either on the box or, if you are going to download it, on the relevant site, have been independently tested to provide a simple and effective means of support to parents. They are designed to help ensure that a child’s online experience is a safe one. The Kitemark scheme is sponsored by the Home Office and Ofcom. For more detailed information about Child Safety Online Kitemark and how it will work for you and your child visit http://www.kitemark.com“.
SOURCES OF HELP
“There are many professional sources of help. These include:
- http://www.thinkuknow.co.uk: the main UK Government website with advice for parents on how to keep children safe online
- http://www.ceop.gov.uk: the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) is the Government body dedicated to eradicating abuse of children. Concerns about inappropriate contacts between a child and an adult, including online, can be reported directly to CEOP.
- http://www.iwf.org.uk: the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) works to remove illegal material from the internet. If you have found any material you believe to be illegal e.g. child sex abuse images, other obscene material or material which incites racial hatred, you can report it to the IWF.
- http://www.net-aware.org.uk/ Net Aware is run by the NSPCC. Social media apps, games and sites are rated based on their features and appropriateness. Potential dangers are flagged up and Net Aware recommends what age children should be allowed to have access to that site or app.
- https://www.betterinternetforkids.eu/ Better Internet for Kids (BIK) was set up by the European Commission to promote safe digital access for children across Europe. The site includes blog posts of trending internet topics and the European Youth Portal, where young people can access information in 28 languages on European and national information and opportunities. It also has a hotline where families can receive support and report suspicious online activity.
- A number of specialist websites contain general advice that may be of help to parents. These include http://www.nspcc.org.uk, http://www.barnardos.org.uk, and http://www.bullying.co.uk.
- Another site which can offer parents support on broader issues is http://www.familylives.org.uk.
As technology evolves these issues become more and more important. Educate yourself and your children so that the internet remains a place of knowledge, fun and wonderment.