“The more digital skills a child has, the more risks they are likely to encounter online. More skills can reduce the potential harm that risks can bring.”
EU Kids Online report published September 201
The best way to keep your child safe on the internet:
You can make sure your child is safe online by using technical parental controls and creating your own rules. Rules should cover things like which websites they can visit and how long they can spend online. You should also stress the importance of keeping personal information safe.
Computers and other digital technologies like games consoles and mobile phones have parental controls. These let you do things like:
- block selected websites and email addresses by adding them to a filter list
- set time limits for use
- prevent your child from searching certain words
Before you set rules you can check the equipment’s user manual or the manufacturers’ websites to see what controls you have access to. You can also contact your internet service provider (ISP) or mobile phone operator to find out about any child safety measures they offer.
Setting rules with your child
When making a set of rules for using the internet, it’s a good idea to include your child. Being involved will help them understand the dangers and give them a sense of responsibility. It will also let them know what kind of websites you think are suitable.
The best way to keep your child safe online is to get on the internet yourself to learn how they use it. This will help you to set reasonable rules.
Acceptable internet use
Some examples of acceptable use might include:
- the internet-connected computer must be in a family room with the screen facing outward so you can see what’s going on
- if your child accidentally goes to an unsuitable website they should tell you – you can delete it from the ‘history’ folder and add the address to the parental control filter list
- it’s never OK to use abusive or threatening language in any online communication
- your child should take breaks from the computer every 30 minutes for health and safety reasons
- your child shouldn’t download unknown files from the internet without you agreeing – it’s best to never download unknown files at all
Child-friendly search engines
You should make sure your child is aware of child-friendly search engines. These filter out inappropriate internet sites so that they are able to search the internet safely. Your child can also use traditional search engines with safe search settings turned on.
Stopping cyberbullying (online bullying)
Cyberbullying: talk to your child about staying safe on computers and mobile phones
Your child should understand that they should never be afraid to tell you about frightening or bullying emails or messages they get with unacceptable content. It’s not their fault that they have received them and the addresses can be added to the parental control filter list.
These days bullying doesn’t just happen in the playground. Cyberbullying – or bullying via digital technologies like mobile phones and computers – is a different threat to your child. It can be harder to spot and more difficult to manage than ‘traditional’ bullying. Understanding the dangers will help you support your child.
What’s different about cyberbullying?
As with other forms of bullying, usually the bully intends to cause harm and carries out activity over time. Cyberbullying is different to other forms of bullying because:
- it can occur at any time of day, anywhere – the victim can even receive bullying messages or materials at home
- the audience to the bullying can be large and reached very quickly and easily if messages are passed around or things are posted online
- it can be unintentional – because they are not face to face, people may not think about the consequences of sending messages or images
Ways of cyberbullying
Some of the ways in which cyberbullying can occur are through:
- chat rooms, blogs and forums – although some of these are moderated, people involved in discussions can be sent abusive responses
- text messaging – abusive and threatening texts can be sent to mobile phones
- abusive or prank phone calls – these can be made to your child’s mobile phone
- picture and video clip messaging – offensive images can be sent to mobile phones
- email – new addresses can be set up in minutes and used to send offensive messages and images
- social networking and personal websites (like Facebook or MySpace) – offensive or humiliating messages and images can be posted on these sites
- identity theft – in many online environments fake profiles can be set up pretending to be someone else with the aim of bullying others
- instant message services – quicker than email, these allow users to have ‘real time’ conversations, and offensive messages or content can be sent in this way
- webcams – usually used to view each other when chatting online, children can also be sent abusive images or encouraged to act in an inappropriate way while being filmed
- Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) – abusers can use the various forms of online software used by schools to enable staff and pupils to interact with each other to send offensive images and messages
- video hosting sites (like YouTube) – children may find themselves the subject of films being shown or be accidentally exposed to pornographic images
- gaming sites, consoles and virtual worlds – chatting is possible within many games, and name calling, abusive remarks and picking on particular players can occur
Minimising the risks of cyberbullying
As with other types of bullying it’s important for you to listen to your child and react with sympathy. Your child should know that bullying is always wrong and that seeking help is the right thing to do.
It’s important for them to learn to respect and look after their friends online, just as they would face to face. You should talk to your children about who they are talking to online. Try to guide them by discussing sensitively the issues around online friends. Negotiate and establish boundaries. You should also make sure you:
- are aware that there are many ways children can go ‘online’, such as on a mobile phone or games console
- encourage your children to talk to you or another adult about anything that’s upsetting them
- watch out for them seeming upset after using a computer or their mobile phone
- try to understand the ways in which they are using their digital technologies
- ask them to think about how their actions affect other users
- suggest that they avoid private chat rooms
- encourage them to keep evidence of any abusive or offensive emails or messages they’ve received, and to show you or another trusted adult
- help them report any abuse to their school, the internet service provider, the website manager/moderator, the mobile phone company or the police
- tell them not to respond to any abusive messages or calls – this is frequently what the abuser wants
- discuss keeping their passwords safe and avoiding giving personal information, such as their name or mobile phone number to people they do not know face to face
- change email address or telephone number if the abuse continues
- turn on in-built internet safety features and install computer software to ensure that you only receive emails from people you have chosen and to block unwanted images
- tell them about places where they can go for help and support like CyberMentors, ChildLine and Childnet International
Your child’s personal safety online
It’s important your child realises that people online might not be who they say they are and could be dangerous. They should also be aware that any personal information they give out can be used in financial scams or for bullying.
To keep your child safe you should tell them not to:
- give out personal information to people they only know online – this includes name, home address, landline and mobile numbers, bank details, PIN numbers and passwords
- supply details for registration without asking for permission and help from you
- visit chat websites that aren’t fully moderated/supervised
- arrange to meet an online friend in person without your knowledge and permission (if you agree to let them, you should always go along with them)
- give any indication of their age or sex in a personal email address or screen name
- keep anything that worries or upsets them online secret from you
- respond to unwanted emails or other messages
You can monitor your child’s internet use by checking the history folder on your browser as it contains a list of previously visited sites.
If there’s a problem
Hopefully the rules you put in place will mean your child is always able to use the internet safely. However, you should also:
- contact your ISP if your child comes across inappropriate content or is subjected to any inappropriate contact while online
- install and regularly update filtering software to protect against inappropriate internet access
If you are worried about illegal materials or suspicious online behaviour, contact the Child Exploitation and Online Protection centre (CEOP).
This information is from the Directgov website. © Crown copyright
HOW TO REPORT ABUSE ON THE INTERNET
There are a range of organisations around the world set up especially to handle reports of suspected online child abuse or illegal online content and you can find out about these organisations and how they can help you by selecting the links below.
STAY SAFE IN THE HOLIDAYS
“LET’S TALK ABOUT ONLINE RELATIONSHIPS” – A Guide for Parents and Carers
“Children find internet communication and social networking fun and safe most of the time. But things can go wrong. As a parent or carer you can help protect your child by talking together about online relationships”.
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