The Department of Education has released a guide on cyberbullying, which can be read here
The Internet is essential to our children’s education, future careers and lives. But even the most experienced Internet user doesn’t understand how children use the Internet and how to help them have a safer and more enjoyable surfing experience.
Here are some tips and advice that may help….
The internet is a great place for your child to find out information, research school projects and stay in touch with friends. However, there are some websites out there that you’d probably rather they didn’t see, and you’ll rightly be concerned about who they’re chatting to and what information they’re telling other people about themselves.
To get the most out of the web, it’s important that they – and you – learn to use the web safely. This section will take you through some of the web’s problem areas and give you advice on how to keep your child safe online.
Most ISPs offer some form of parental controls that can limit the time your child spends online (so you can be sure they don’t surf unsupervised. They also offer filters, that prevent children accessing sites with unsuitable images or text.
You can update the settings over time as your child grows up and access is controlled by a password that only you know, so you set the level that’s appropriate for your child.
Create a separate family email address that you and your child use for entering competitions or joining mailing lists.
Make sure your child knows never to pass on personal information, including email addresses without your permission – and never to passwords to anyone else.
Never open attachments from an unknown sender.
10 TIPS FOR PARENTS
Become confident using computers yourself. It’s important that you are able to talk to your child about technology and the web.
Use filtering software to reduce the amount of spam you receive and the likelihood that your child will view pornographic images. Use parental controls that will only allow your child online at times you decide.
Sign up to an ISP that offers a ‘walled garden’ within which your child can surf monitored and evaluated information and websites.
Keep the computer in a communal area of the house so it is easier to monitor what your children are viewing.
Tell children not to give out their personal details. If they want to subscribe to services online, make sure they know to use a family email address to do this.
Make sure your child only uses moderated chat rooms and encourage them to introduce you to their online friends.
Encourage your children to tell you if they feel uncomfortable, upset or threatened by anything they see online.
Establish a family code for internet use with your child. Get them to agree to the hours they will surf, the sites they will visit and the kinds of information they will look for. Trust them to tell you if they stumble across something they shouldn’t have so you can remove it from your browser’s history.
The web is a great place to research homework, but try to discourage cut-and-pasting of material or too much downloading and printing. Written notes are better, and some selected pages.
Surf together. Go online with younger children and ask about what older children do online just as you would if they have been out somewhere. The key to safe surfing is communication.
TIPS FOR YOUR CHILD
The web’s a great place to have fun, make friends and find out information. But it’s also a good place for criminals to gain access to your computer. So all you have to do is follow a few simple rules.
THE RULES: Never tell anyone your real name or address Unfortunately, there’s no way of knowing if online users are who they say they are so it’s vital that you never tell anyone your real name, your home address or your school. When you join chatrooms or mailing lists, register with a username that doesn’t give away your name, age or address. So don’t pick Susie13, try something anonymous like brainiac or musicfan.
Use a separate email account for the web If you join mailing lists or sign up for newsletters, use a different email address. This is because email address lists are more likely to be used by spammers and con artists sending unwanted emails – some of them with viruses that could damage your computer. If you receive unwanted mail, make sure you tell a responsible adult and NEVER open an attachment from someone you don’t know, as this is the most common way of sending computer viruses. Never give your private email address to anyone you don’t know and trust.
Only use moderated chatrooms Some adults use chatrooms as a way of meeting children. To do this they pretend to be your friend before arranging to meet up. The easiest way to keep safe is to use moderated chatrooms where a trained administrator keeps an eye on users, and makes sure someone isn’t trying to pass themselves off as a kid when they’re not.
PAEDOPHILES: UNDERSTANDING THE THREAT
The main area for concern is chat rooms, so it would be a good idea if you explored a few chat rooms yourself and familiarise yourself with how they work. (Sometimes they seem to be written in some kind of code).
The problem with the web is that there’s no way of being sure that people are who they say they are and paedophiles are known to pretend to be children in order to gain their trust. It is vital that kids know that not everyone on the net is actually who they claim to be.
Make sure that they know never to give personal details in chat rooms or let people they have met in chat rooms contact them by phone or instant messaging. Once a paedophile has made contact via a chat room, they start to persuade them to start instant messaging, texting or talking on the phone. This sort of activity is called ‘grooming’ and is punishable by law. The most important thing you can do is tell your child never to give out their real name, address, mobile number or school details. Anonymity is the best defence.
You may choose not to let your child enter chat rooms that aren’t moderated by a suitable adult (ISPs like AOL, for example, employ people to supervise their chat rooms)
Sign up for a chat room yourself. This way you will learn how they work and get to know the different ways kids can chat. For example, along with public chat rooms there are also private areas where you can have one-to-one conversations. You should discourage your child from doing this. There is also Instant Messenger, a program that allows people to make immediate, real time contact with their ‘friends’ while they are surfing other sites. You should also learn to use Instant Messenger.
It’s important to remind yourself that the internet isn’t crawling with paedophiles: you don’t need to panic, you just need to be sensible.
AVOIDING SPAM AND VIRUSES
Spam, or unwanted and unsolicited emails, is not only irritating but it can have potentially serious consequences.
Most spam involves either advertising for things you might not want your children to know about (like Viagra, for example), or it’s a scam designed to get recipients to spend money on non-existent products. They can clog up your inbox and occassionally contain viruses that could damage your computer.
Your ISP may be able to help. Most offer ‘spam filters’ that can elimate most unsolicited correspondence. They might also offer scanning software that will destroy emails containing viruses. However, these aren’t perfect, so if you’re really concerned, then it might always be an idea to log on with your child, and check the mail before leaving your child alone.
Although it might be tempting, never reply to a spam, even to unsubscribe, as this can be a ruse to get you to confirm your details. Likewise, if spam comes with an attachment – no matter how innocent, tempting or funny it might seem, never open it as this is way most viruses infect computers.
PROTECTING CHILDREN FROM ONLINE PORNOGRAPHY
Pornography is nothing new, but as the internet makes it easier to find – even accidentally – it’s sensible to take a few precautions to help minimize the chances your child will come across something you’d rather they didn’t see.
There is plenty of technical help out – like automatic filtersand child-friendly search engines – but it will help if you can be open with your child about the internet’s no go areas. Accepting that it’s natural for them to be curious about what’s out there means its more likely that they’re going to talk to you if they seem something inappropriate.
Spam email can sometimes contain pornographic material, so it’s advisable that you use a spam filter that weeds out all unsolicited correspondence. Don’t let your children use their private email address to register for anything online as that’s how spammers harvest email addresses. Set up a family email address for online use so that the inevitable spam will be sent to an email address you can monitor.