Parent’s Guide to Internet Safety
Our children experience a different type of freedom and opportunity to explore the world and this is down to technology and internet. Many parents would have had an entirely different childhood where greater levels of control and discipline were exercised by their own mother and father, something that is very difficult to achieve for today’s parents, thanks to the wealth of information and access to a wide range of material that is available at just the click of a mouse or press of a button.
We are all now living in a digital age and there are many positive factors for sure, but there are also issues and dilemmas to contend with as parents can rightly be concerned about who and what their children are encountering online, without you being aware.
Dangers are everywhere in cyberspace, from inappropriate websites to cyber bullying and this is why we have put together a parent’s guide to the internet, so that you can be informed and up to date on what your children may have access to online.
Education on internet safety is as an important part of modern childhood and needs to continue as technology evolves, so here is a look at what parents and children need to know together with links to some useful resources.
Chapter 1: Guidelines for Parents
The FBI has published a useful guide that is well worth visiting and as you would expect from the U.S department of Justice, it takes the protection of our children from online dangers very seriously indeed.
A fundamental issue that has to be addressed when talking about internet safety, is the fact that advances in computer and telecommunications technology not only offer the opportunity to access new sources of knowledge and widen their cultural experience, it also opens up the possibility of exposure to harmful material, exploitation and even sexual predators, in some circumstances.
No parent would ever want their child to experience any of these traumatic and challenging scenario’s, which is why it is critical for parents to understand the dangers and monitor their child’s activity within reason, as well as spotting any behavioral changes in them that could indicate a problem.
You should never be immune to the fact that there are a small percentage of individuals who surf the internet with a view to making friends with a child and grooming them for sexual exploitation at a later date.
These predators are particularly adept at gradually lowering a child’s inhibitions over a period of time and will often pretend to be someone that they are not. A middle-aged man with bad intentions could easily create a profile that is very different to reality in order to befriend a child, so you should be prepared as a parent to ask who they are talking to if you are unsure in any way and also look out for noticeable changes in their behavior.
Warning signs can include spending large amounts of time online, especially during evening hours and there may be some examples of pornography on your child’s computer, which may have been introduced as a way of normalizing sex between adults and children.
If your child becomes withdrawn or shows any of the signs that you can find a list of in guides like the one compiled by the FBI, you should be prepared to talk openly with them about your suspicions and make them aware of the dangers they are facing.
If you do find evidence of inappropriate contact between an adult and your child or have any concerns at all, you should not hesitate to try and discuss the situation with your son or daughter and if necessary, contact your local law enforcement agency for further assistance.
Open communication is the key to avoiding major problems like sexual exploitation and cyber bullying from happening to your child, so use your parental instincts and act swiftly.
The National Safety Council also provides some useful tips for parents and there is also information and advice for parents via OnGuardOnline.Gov. All of these sites can help you provide the parental support and guidance that is necessary with such easy access to the internet within reach for most children.
Chapter 2: Kids and the Web
We want to aim for our kids to be smart digital citizens, as the internet is such a fundamental part of modern life and commerce.
Education and entertainment are all easily accessible and the Attorney General’s office has set up a national task force to help enforce school and campus safety for all children, so that kids can use the internet safely and not be exposed to issues like violence in schools and bullying.
Although dating violence is very much a physical problem and a very real concern, when you look at the statistics that show how worryingly common this phenomenon is, the internet can be used in a positive way to address this problem.
The results of a study carried out back in 2008 by loveisrespect.org, showed that 69% of teens who had sex by the age of 14, had suffered some type of abuse in a relationship and one in every five teenagers aged between 13 and 14 years, said they knew of friends or peers who has been struck in anger by a boyfriend or girlfriend.
As only 51% of tweens claimed to know the warning signs of a bad or hurtful relationship, this where you as a parent can fill that knowledge gap and use resources like loveisrespect to educate and address any problems with violence, especially during such crucial formative years.
Bullying is not exactly a new phenomenon but it has taken on a new form with the invention of the internet.
Cyber Bullying is the use of different technology such as cell phones and any device connected to the internet, to send or post images or text that is designed to hurt or embarrass another person. These acts of aggression can even take place via video game systems which are connected to the internet, so you will need to be vigilant as a parent to spot any signs of this happening to your child.
Social networking site like Facebook and Twitter as well as popular chat rooms and forums, are all mediums that are used by cyber bullies to attack their victims in a number of different hurtful ways.
The acts can be rumor spreading, disclosure of personal information and can even involve the bully impersonating the victim.
Cyber bullying can be carried out overtly or covertly. The removal of this face-to-face exchange which used to be a feature of a playground bully in the physical world seems to make some of the perpetrators act more boldly in the cyber world.
According to statistics compiled by nobullying.com, it is estimated that 43% of teens were victims of cyber bullying in the U.S during 2010. This is an alarming statistic and shows the need for parents to monitor their child as best they can and maintain an open dialogue about the subject with them.
Protecting Personal Information
Not every parent is aware that they have control over any personal information collected online about their child, if they are younger 13 years of age.
It is an important law that helps you get the opportunity to consent to data being held about your child if they under 13 and it also means that the website has a legal obligation to keep any information it collects secure.
It is worth taking the time to read about privacy laws when it comes to protecting your child online and there are also some useful tips to refer to that are designed to help keep sensitive data away from unauthorized access.
Here are some sites that can help parents get up to speed and learn more about protecting personal information.
Protecting Your Child’s Privacy Online – Informative page from the Federal Trade Commission that looks at privacy issues.
Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act – Summary of the legislation that was enacted to protect children online.
Protecting Personal Information – Tips on how to protect personal information from being found online.
Chapter 3: Tips for Kids
You should not give out any personal information without first asking permission from your parents and anything that could easily identify you such as your last name and home address should be avoided.
Think about a sensible screen name for yourself that does not include any genuine personal information like your name or date of birth and always tell your parents before meeting an online friend, as not everyone is who they claim to be online.
Chapter 4: Tips for Parents
The Family Online Safety Institute offers plenty of helpful advice on how to practice good digital parenting and their aim is to give parents the confidence to help their children navigate their way safely around the online world.
The range of issues and subjects that you need to address with your children about internet safety will vary according to their age and it is definitely part of modern-day parenting that you have a sound understanding of what is going on in the digital world.
Technology has the ability to help you become a better parent and develop a trusting and collaborative relationship with your child when it comes to how they use the internet. This can only be successfully achieved if you have a broad understanding and knowledge of the sites they might have access to and the content they are likely to encounter.
Take a look at some of these sites for further guidance and information and always remember that practicing internet safety is an important aspect of ensuring your child has a positive experience from using the internet in their lives.