With five in six parents relying on verbal agreements with children on their use of the Internet, there’s a real need to educate both adults and children in the ways staying safer online.
Here’s a set of “Dos” for parents, and “Don’ts” for children, written by Sue Atkins of Positive Parents.
Dos for Parents
Do: Talk to your child about how they use the internet. Encourage them to show you how they access the net and to talk to you about any concerns they may have regarding online chatting. Show an interest rather than point an accusatory finger of distrust at them. Your child will feel reassured and safe if you show a balance of respecting their way of communicating but keeping a watchful eye on what’s happening.
Do: Keep the computer in a public place in your home – if a predator sees a bustling living room or kitchen in the background on the webcam rather than just a quiet child’s bedroom, he will probably be less likely to embark on attempting to groom your child.
Do: Keep up to date with technology. Ask your child to teach you new things – they’ll enjoy spending time with you, and you’ll enjoy being with them too, but also know that you are keeping them safe in the process.
Do: Remind your child that any people they only know through the internet (and not in the real world) may not be who they say they are.
Do: Check the privacy settings covering their profiles online.
Do: Make it clear to your child that you will occasionally check what websites they are using and will also sometimes ask questions to make sure they know the people they are contacting.
Do: Remind your child that anything they post can be visible to the world.
Don’ts for Children
Don’t: post any personal information, e.g. e-mail address or mobile number on profiles.
Don’t: post anything online you don’t want the world to see.
Don’t: continue online conversations that make you feel uncomfortable or suspicious about whom you are talking to. Report these to the Child Protection Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) website via their ‘report abuse’ facility and talk to your parents or another adult whom you trust to help you.
Don’t: agree to meet anyone in person whom you only know via the internet.
Don’t: open any attachments or links if you don’t know (in the real world) the person who has sent them.
Don’t: use your real name in chat rooms – pick a nickname just to use online.
Don’t: assume that the people you are chatting to online are who they claim to be.
Don’t: keep any anxieties, worries or little niggles to yourself about approaches to you, or conversations you have had, online. Talk to your parents and/or an adult you trust. If not, you can call Childline.
Don’t: “accept” strangers who ask to be “friends” on your online profile – say NO or just ignore them. Don’t be tempted to say YES.
Don’t: agree if someone suggests keeping your chats a secret – tell your parents or a trusted adult.
NCH’s advice on internet safety
Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre
Think U Know: part of the CEOP site. Has pages specific to certain age groups to help them understand how to use the internet safely. Can also report abuse here.
Childline – telephone 0800 1111