Internet Safety - a guide for parents

Protecting your child

Allowing your child to explore the world of on-line possibilities, introducing them to the web and all that it has to offer can be an exciting but daunting prospect. While it is important to introduce children to the valuable elements of the internet for educational purposes, social interaction and of course, for the endless entertainment options offered by various online gaming sites and app providers, it is more important than ever, that parents are aware of the dangers that children can be exposed to.

Unfortunately, there are individuals and groups out there attempting to exploit children, using the internet as a tool to find and groom them while they are accessing the internet. Some children are gradually groomed and others are asked to instantly engage in explicit or inappropriate interaction. The perpetrators are often posing as other children and are often, acutely aware of current the music, gaming and general interests of children, making it easier to engage in contact.

As parents, it is important to consider the darker side of the internet and the best ways in which to safeguard against online dangers. Talk to and educating your child about the possible dangers associated with an online presence and ensure that your internet settings protect your child from accessing indecent content such as pornography and other inappropriate sites.

Consider the following when allowing your child access to the internet:

✔ Spend time online with your child, exploring their interests and detecting any possible risks associated with various sites, chat rooms and social media platforms

✔ Educate your child about being vigilant and aware of those who may have an ulterior motive when trying to communicate with them

✔ It can be equally as important to check other locations where your child may be accessing the internet, consider schools, libraries or friends’ homes

✔ Access to online devices such pc’s, laptops and wireless devices should be kept in common areas of the home where it is easy for you to see who is communicating with your child or what sites your child is viewing

✔ Use safe searching controls offered by your service provider, you may also install software that offers additional protection

✔ Discuss the dangers posed by strangers who request information from your child relating to their contact details, requests to meet in person or offers of gifts or compliments given during online chats or by email

✔ Do not forbid your child to go online, this can create a situation where your child may become more vulnerable if accessing the internet without your knowledge and advice. Support and educate your child about online safety.

Other online dangers

While there is a strong focus on sexual exploitation when bearing in mind the dangers that children face online, it is important to remember that there are other risks to consider. Talk to your child about the various online dangers such as those outlined below, reassure them that no matter what they are experiencing, you are there to help them address the issue and resolve any problems.

Cyber bullying

This form of bullying can be even more damaging than the playground version as it uses the internet as its mode of delivery meaning that it can take place twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. In addition, the bully has the added benefit of being able to hide behind the device they are using to bully their victim. While in some cases, the victim knows who the bully is, the internet can provide anonymity to some bullies who may use an alias to protect their identity. It is equally important to ensure that your child is not taking part in cyber bullying against another individual.

Social networks

These days, social networking sites, blogs and other virtual interaction platforms are just some of the many ways in which your child may communicate. By helping your child to navigate these safely, you will be helping to encourage responsible behaviour.

Social networking has created a new way of communicating, your child is able to instantly share information, photographs, location details and their personal views and beliefs, all of which are out in the open for anyone to see. This can have far reaching consequences if not managed in an appropriate way.

Teach your child about restricting their profiles and ensuring that they are not posting information or comments that may affect their own or someone else’s reputation. It is important that children know that once they post a comment, photograph or link, it is very difficult to take it back as others may have seen it before you have had a chance to remove it.

Chat rooms and instant messaging services

There is an ever-increasing child presence online and as they are learning to communicate and to use technology to do so, your child may start to access chat rooms or instant messaging services to keep in touch with family and friends. This could take place at home, at school, during their time at the library or while using wireless devices and online gaming consoles at home or elsewhere. Make sure that you are aware of all of the ways in which your child is accessing the internet and who they are chatting to.

Email safety

When considering internet safety, most parents are concerned about the content their children are looking at on websites and via social media sites. Often, children are being sent material or correspondence via email, making it harder to monitor and restrict. Some of the main dangers of email access can be online contact from predators seeking to enter into communication with your child, phishing emails aimed at gaining access to personal information or explicit images or content contained within the emails or as attachments. It is much harder to protect your child from email spam than it is to block inappropriate websites from popping up at the click of a mouse. It is important to know who is contacting your child and who your child is replying to by email to best protect them when using this form of communication.

Online safety is your responsibility

As we move into a future where technology is playing a more important role than ever in how we communicate, teach our children and learn about the world as a whole, the potential dangers increase too. The internet is an essential tool in the modern world, it is helping to shape the future of education, communication and social interaction. As a parent, it is up to you to monitor how your child uses the internet, it is your responsibility to educate them about the risks when going online and what to do if they feel that they are at risk of exploitation through grooming or bullying. Help your child to experience the world of possibilities that the internet offers while keeping them safe as they do so.

Disclaimer

However carefully researched the material in this information guide might be, it is not possible to guarantee its accuracy or completeness. The author and distributor therefore accept no liability for any inaccuracies or any loss or damage arising from the use of or reliance on details obtained from this information guide. Please ensure that you check the current government recommendations relating to the information shared within this guide.

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