According to a recent survey from BroadbandChoices.co.uk, five out of six parents rely on verbal agreements to ensure their children use the Internet safely. That’s despite almost half of children using chatrooms (which, it has to be said, are not filled with paedophiles, but can still be dangerous if users aren’t careful), two in five using Facebook or MySpace, and half downloading software, music, or videos.
With the summer holidays here, children are likely to be spending more time in front of the computer, often unsupervised. This has implications not only for their safety, but also for how much the Internet broadband connection is being used.
With various measures coming into place regarding the illegal downloading of music and other material, in which the UK Government and Internet Service Providers would hold parents responsible for what their children download, parents could be letting themselves in for a shock.
Michael Phillips, Product Director, BroadbandChoices.co.uk, said, “We were surprised to learn that such a high proportion of parents heavily rely on verbal agreements to ensure their children’s online activities are safe and legal. Children are often more tech-savvy than their parents and the click of a mouse can take them anywhere. This research highlights the need for parents to be aware of the simple checks they can put in place to safeguard children who are increasingly using the internet to build new relationships.”
BroadbandChoices.co.uk recommends the following steps to help busy parents effectively monitor their childÃ‚â€™s online activity:
1. Parental control software: Some ISPs like AOL and BT offer parental controls as part of their service, while other users can get them with their antivirus and security suites. Parental controls allow you to block certain sites and keywords, apply different settings for different age groups, and monitor your child’s online activity. You can also use the Messenger Plus! program to keep a log of conversations they might be having using Instant Messenger.
2. Education: Completely banning older children from the Internet is unlikely to stop them from using chatrooms and social networking sites, so instead, explain why they need to be careful on the Internet and make sure they know never to give out personal information or meet strangers without an adult around.
3. All on one PC: Keeping the family computer in the living room is a great way of ensuring that your children stay safe online. They’re far less likely to spend time in chatrooms or downloading illegally if their parents are in the same room. Also, make sure that you’re set as the administrator on any PC in the home, so that only you can change the settings on your parental control software.
4. Antivirus and firewall software: Using security software to protect your PC will also protect your child from spam emails with inappropriate content, and phishing emails where they could give out personal information including bank details.
5. Monitor downloads: If youÃ‚â€™re concerned about the affect your children’s downloading is having on your monthly usage allowance, use a Download Monitor to keep an eye on downloads and set alarms to alert you when you near your limit.
BroadbandChoices.co.uk’s download monitor can be accessed at //www.broadbandchoices.co.uk/broadband-download-monitor.html