These days more and more young people have access to the Internet either at home, at a friend's, in school or in an internet cafe. It can be fun and educational, but are you also putting yourself at risk?
Guidelines For Parents
We don't want to be alarmist - children should be encouraged to explore the wealth of knowledge on the internet - it's exciting, it puts them in touch with the world and it's easy to use. However, there's always a risk they could come across somebody whose intentions are not so honourable. Here are some thoughts to bear in mind...
Who's Talking To Your Child?
Cybersapce, the Web, the Information Highway - call it what you will, the internet has created an environment where children, young people and adults alike now communicate within the privacy of a virtual world.
Many people these days consider themselves to be "Net Intelligent". Nevertheless, we are all just as vulnerable as those who are not so net-wise. Many people believe that giving out personal details to their new "friends" is okay.
The headlines we see in the media concerning the problem of paedophiles and the internet speak for themselves. Through the internet, it is possible for children to be at risk from inappropriate language, imagery and behaviour from anywhere in the world. At the click of a button, a paedophile can have direct communication with your child. A paedophile effectively lures a young person into a false world by making false promises. They are quick to establish a secret code or language, and endeavour to make a vulnerable child feel special and valued.
What Can You Do?
By taking responsibility for your child's on-line computer use, you can reduce any potential risks to their safety:
Never place a computer in an area where it is difficult to monitor what your children are doing - where possible, have the computer in a family room.
Establish reasonable guidelines for your children on their use of the internet and chat rooms.
The net sometimes uses certain phrases and shortcuts and assumes everyone knows what they mean - find out from friends or your children what they are.
Get to know the internet and familiarise yourself with all the things that can be done on-line, including any services your children use - ask them to show you what they use the computer for and who their on-line friends are.
If your child arranges a meeting with an on-line friend, it's obviously a delicate decision whether or not to give your permission. If you agree to such a meeting, ensure it takes place in a public area and that your child is accompanied, if not by yourself, by an appropriate adult you can trust.
Emphasise to your children the importance of making you aware of any bad language or distasteful images they come across on the internet.
Notify the police of anything you see which is distasteful - even if you're not sure whether to report it or not, we can advise you what to do.