The internet is a fantastic place full of information just waiting to be absorbed and shared. However the internet can also be an unforgiving and downright terrifying place if you happen to click on the wrong link or access the wrong website. It is important for some such information to be readily available for public use; however like post watershed TV Series, Horror Movies and certain stories seen in the News, some of the content found on the internet is certainly not child friendly.
It is important to instil a certain level of ‘common sense’ in your children before letting them roam around the internet freely. Like you would teach a child about the dangers of fire, of strangers or of crossing a busy road without looking both ways, you must also talk to them about the dangers of the internet.
Yes the internet is a wonderful place full of knowledge; however this knowledge can sometimes be hidden behind a slew of bad comments, nasty imagery and hateful people that often don’t realise that what they say and do is easily viewable by children. There are a number of security measures put in place by specific websites to help prevent children from accessing these sites, but as a zebra crossing or a ‘warning: hot’ sign can only do so much, these security measures can only protect your children to a certain extent while surfing the web.
Here are a few helpful hints and tips designed to help you to actively improve your child’s safety when they are on the internet so that they can settle down for some safe, fun, learning and start to use the internet as it was initially intended to be used; for sharing and exchanging useful information.
– Social Networks and the difference between Online and Offline
With the recent rise in popularity of social networking and social media websites, you will find it hard to find a young person or a teenager who doesn’t at least have a twitter or facebook account. Many fully functioning members of society, including children, use it to catch up with friends, arrange events and even reconnect with old friends. However there are some people whose intentions are a little more ambiguous.
It is important to let your child know that there is a difference between being friends on Facebook and being friends in the real world. There are people out there with thousands of facebook friends, most of which they will have likely never met in the real world. However if you want your children to stay safe and secure on the internet, make it clear to them that they should only accept requests from people they know or have met in real life and to ask you if they have any doubts.
– Sharing your Personal Information
There are a number of websites that require you to give out your personal details to sign up. While in many cases only an email address is needed, some websites will want more information and in this case it may be helpful for you to set up an account for your children to use in their stead.
Tell your child that sharing your personal information over the internet is like letting someone you don’t know into your bedroom while you’re away. You can only trust that they won’t do something bad with it, but they could be there to steal your things or worse, so it is important never to give out personal details online, particularly your home address.
– Websites that Give Warnings
Some websites will give warnings in the form of Big Black or Red Lettering or a pop up. These warnings will most likely say ‘Over 18’s only’ or ‘Not Suitable for Children’. If you are letting your child surf unsupervised, you should tell them to exit out of these websites if they find a warning appearing. If you are supervising their surfing, you can simply explain to them that these are websites that are unsuitable for children or that they contain upsetting or distressing content.
Communication is the key, particularly with teenagers, so if they start to get curious about sexual education, development or something similar, it is important that they don’t turn to the internet for this advice. Be open and honest with them and try to answer all their questions truthfully, otherwise you may catch them turning to the internet to sate their curiosity.
– Staying Alert
There is a bunch of parental control software available to keep your kids safe on the internet, which allows you to blacklist or block access to a number of specific websites and also keeps tabs on what your children are doing during their sessions on the web.
Parental control software is also available in App form for mobile devices so that you can secure your iPhone, iPad, tablet, laptop and android devices if you need to. It is important to remember that the internet is easily accessed through a wide variety of devices nowadays, not just through desktop computers, so it is important to stay alert.
There is often no better security than sitting in on your kids’ internet sessions, so if you have some spare time while they are surfing the web, just pull up a chair next to them and keep one eye open, just to be extra safe. If you have a healthy relationship built on trust, this will be a lot easier to do, however for older children you might want to give them a bit of space. It all depends on what you feel is best for your child.
Article provided by Sarah Proctor, an online media representative for www.tmb.co.uk, a South Coast IT specialist serving the public for more than 30 years.