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Your child and the internet

Online dangers

Most children are incredibly web literate. But while they may have a great understanding of how to use social networks, instant messaging systems, search for information and download files, they may not be aware of the potential dangers out there - making it very difficult to make sure that they're safe. Essentially the ‘dangers' online are as follows:

  • Inappropriate content
  • Inappropriate contact
  • Cyberbullying

How should you handle it?

Inappropriate content: to some degree you can prevent your child from accessing inappropriate content by using filtering software. However, you should not be overly reliant on this software as it can never block everything. There are also lots of different types of inappropriate content: pornography is the obvious one. But sadly there are also other sorts of sites which you might want to limit your child's access to. For example, sites which promote racial intolerance and hate; pro-ana sites which promote an anorexic lifestyle and so on.

As such, perhaps the best advice is to keep the lines of communication open and make sure that you keep an eye on what sort of sites your child is accessing. If you do find that your child has accessed content which you are unhappy about, talk it through with them.

Inappropriate contact: strangers online can be just as dangerous as those you might meet in real life. Remind your children that the people they speak to online may not be who they say they are and that if they don't know them in real life; then effectively they are still strangers. As such, they should never agree to meet up with people that they only know online, no matter how nice they seem.

Cyberbullying: sadly online bullying is becoming more prevalent. Again here, making sure that you are keeping the lines of communication open is key. If you suspect that there is a problem, then encourage your child to talk about it, and tackle the problem together.

Tips to keep your child safe online:

  • Educate yourself. Do some research to make sure that you understand what your child is doing online, eg visit the sites that they visit, play with the applications which they are using etc.
  • Communicate. Make sure you speak to your child about what they're doing online and remind them that they can talk to you if anything happens which makes them feel uncomfortable or upset.
  • Agree ground rules. Eg remember that not everything you see online is what it seems; some information you find may not be true; and people may not always be who they say they are; never agree to meet anyone you only know online, unless your parents will be there too; never give out any personal information; never accept files from anyone you don't know
  • Be aware. Make sure that the computer that your child uses is in a communal area of your home eg living room. This will make it easier for you to keep an eye on what they are accessing and who they are contacting online.
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