The world of the web - keeping your teens safe online
It’s an instantly recognisable scene: your child rushes home from school, and then sits hunched over the computer for hours. But what is she doing online? And is she safe?
These days there are so many different Internet sites, from simple games to more sophisticated social networking and chat rooms. Rather scarily, your child will probably know more about this cyber world than you do, having grown up with Instant Messenger, mobile phones and blogging. But while she may have all the technical skills, you’re still her parents. And you may have some life lessons to teach her (even if she’s not convinced about that).
What is vital is that you trust your teen – but also help to educate her. That, after all, is a parent’s job. Once your child has become a teenager, you don’t want to hover around her constantly, even though it can be hard not to get too involved. But while rust is vital, so is the fact that she manages the Internet safely.
The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) was set up by the Government last year. It gives advice on e-safety to children and adults, and even has a special button whereby any concerns about safety or abuse online can be instantly reported. It also offers online tips for Mum and Dad.
Top tips for parents:
• Know what your children are doing online and who they are talking to. Ask them to teach you to use any applications you have never used.
• Help your children to understand that they should never give out personal details to online friends - personal information includes their messenger id, email address, mobile number and any pictures of themselves, their family or friends - if your child publishes a picture or video online - anyone can change it or share it.
• If your child receives spam / junk email & texts, remind them never to believe them, reply to them or use them.
• It's not a good idea for your child to open files that are from people they don't know. They won't know what they contain - it could be a virus, or worse - an inappropriate image or film.
• Help your child to understand that some people lie online and that therefore it's better to keep online mates online. They should never meet up with any strangers without an adult they trust.
• Always keep communication open for a child to know that it's never too late to tell someone if something makes them feel uncomfortable.
• Teach young people how to block someone online and report them if they feel uncomfortable.
Another good tip is to display a genuine interest in what your child is doing. Ask her to show you what she’s up to (not all the time!) and to explain how it works. Once she knows you don’t just want to tell him off, you can gently remind her of how important it is to keep safe online.
“New technology offers fantastic opportunities for children, but at the same time there’s that negative side of the risk to children too,” says Will Gardner, deputy chief executive of Childnet.
We adults have got to be more open and learn a bit about the technology. If we open a dialogue with our children, then we’ll be able to help them with any problems that come up.
Childnet, who describe themselves as an organisation which helps to “make the Internet a great and safe place for children” has categorised the risk to children as the 3 Cs, Commerce (when you buy something online, for example) Content and Contact.
“It’s often contact which is the one which parents are most concerned about." says Will Gardner. "Not just because of fears that someone with a sexual interest will make contact with their child online, but because of cyber-bullying too."
Top tips for teens online:
Never give out personal information. Use a made-up name, first names only and only the vaguest hint of where you actually live. Think carefully before posting photos which everyone can see, and remember that it’s difficult to remove things once they are in cyberspace – would you want a future employer to see them!
Meeting someone you have “spoken” to online can be very dangerous. Don’t do so alone or at night-time.
Tell a parent or other adult if you feel uncomfortable when online.
However savvy you are, you could still fall prey to being chatted up online, not by someone your own age – but someone pretending to be.
Teenage life - managing their mobile...Sooner or later your teen will announce she feels it’s time she had a mobile phone. It’s a good security measure – but is she old enough to use it responsibly?
Find out more
The CEOP has launched the Think You Know website for young people. It offers a range of information on internet safety and safe surfing, including mobiles, gaming and blogs.
Childnet have a range of different sites which are useful, including ones aimed more specifically at teens.