The Internet is a huge global network which provides a rich source of knowledge and information.
Used wisely the net can be a tremendous support for children and teenagers.
Today you can research any topic, take virtual visits to museums and cities, follow a college or university course as well as obtain a huge variety of information about popular culture.
It's clear that there are many benefits of being connected to the Internet - unfortunately there are dangers too.
As a parent you need to be fully aware of the current risks and keep up with future developments in order to protect our children.
Some adults use the net to lure children into face to face meetings.
Adults can lie about their age and gender and will try to gain children's confidence by expressing an interested in their problems or agreeing with their point of view. Sometimes these adults will request photographs.
Email, bulletin boards and chat rooms have been used to “groom” children and gain their trust.
The Risks Sexually Explicit Material
This can easily be accessed by accident or by a search.
The net has certain sites and news groups designed for adults who want to view sexually explicit material.
Sometimes this material is violent in nature.
Children have sometime received anonymous emails requesting photographs or meetings. Sometimes these emails will be sexually explicit.
Protecting your Children
Possible Danger Signs:
- Any significant changes in mood or behaviour, particularly withdrawal or signs of depression or anxiety
- Excessive amounts of time online
- Unfamiliar telephone numbers or anonymous phone calls
- Hiding the computer screen from you
- Finding pornography on the computer
Who Can You Do?
If you suspect your child may be at risk
- Talk to your child first but avoid threats or anger - they may withdraw and retreat into silence
- Check your child is following safety guidelines or remind them what they should not do on line:
- no personal or identifying information should be given out
- no photos should ever be sent to strangers
- no face to face meetings should ever by arranged
- Use safety features to prevent risk - many companies now have programmes that can help you track or block calls and filter harmful sites or emails
- Keep channels of communication open - encouraging debate about Internet issues will keep the subject alive and lets your child know that you are aware of the dangers and monitoring possible risks to them
- Remember - your children could also be using a friend's computer. No safety programme is 100% foolproof - technology is changing rapidly. Keep yourself updated on any new products and developments.