(As published by LifeWest9 magazine, January 2010 )
Most homes have at least one PC with internet access, and the chances are once your children discover the delights of the internet and all the fun and games to be had, they will be eager to practise their computer skills. However, before you let your kids loose on the internet, you need to understand the risks involved, and take steps to make sure your children stay safe online.
- We cannot be at our children’s sides 100% of the time, but if possible, try to keep the family PC in a communal room, so you can keep an eye on what is going on.
- Show an interest in and understanding of what your children are doing online, and discuss internet safety with them.
- Children will be familiar with ‘stranger danger’, so explain that this also applies online, and that they should not give out any personal information, such as name, address or phone number, on the internet.
- Keep up to date with the technologies your children are using, such as instant messaging, social networking sites, and online gaming communities, that way you will have a better understanding of the risks involved.
- Viewing inappropriate images and content on the internet is probably parents’ main concern. You can deal with this by installing filtering software on your PC like Net Nanny, or CyberPatrol which gives you the power to control content viewed online, monitor chatroom usage, and block certain websites.
- Cyberbullying - which describes the use of the internet by a child/teenager to humiliate, embarrass, threaten or torment another child/teenager - is an increasing problem, so teach your children never to participate in cyberbullying themselves, and also to tell an adult if they are worried, upset or embarrassed by anything they receive or see online.
- Use the ‘content advisor’ function in Internet Explorer (Tools/Internet Options/Content tab), which enables you to set up a list of trusted websites your children can visit, and blocks all others unless you enter a supervisor password (which you set yourself).
- Viruses and spyware seem to be ever on the increase, so make sure your PC has good anti-virus and anti-spyware software in place, and tell your children never to open email attachments from unknown senders, not to download things without checking with you first, and not to click on pop-ups.
- If your child has received inappropriate contact from a stranger and you are concerned, you can report it via the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) website at www.CEOP.gov.uk.
- Parents and children can get tips and information on internet safety at www.kidsmart.org.uk, and www.thinkuknow.co.uk.
Article published by LifeWest9 magazine, January 2010
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