These days computers with Internet access are a regular feature in our children’s classrooms and homes.
The Internet is a never-ending source of information and an excellent tool for homework. Children also spend much time online talking to people all around the world via chat rooms and instant messaging.
However the Internet does have its dangers. Unsupervised children can gain access to inappropriate information or images or have contact with people who could place them at risk.
In the same way you monitor who your child associates with, as a parent you have an important role to play in helping your child keep safe on the Internet.
Unfortunately the Internet is used as a forum for illegal activity, for example:
- paedophiles are using the Internet to meet children almost everywhere else in the world and it could happen here in Seychelles as well.
- people are buying and selling pornographic images of children on the Web
- many seemingly innocent websites are home to pornographic websites, including child pornography.
- Unfortunately a growing number of adults and children are also trading pornographic images, including child pornography.
Although some children are taking up more responsibility as they grow up into adulthood, they are still vulnerable. They may think they’re grown up but they have too limited a life experience to be a good judge about who and what’s safe.
All this makes it critical that you know what your child is doing and who they’re talking to online.
What can you do to protect your child
There are things you can do to ensure your child enjoys the benefits of the Internet and is kept safe from its dangers. These include:
- keeping your home computer in a ‘public space’, for example, your sitting room - where you can see what your teenager is doing and accessing while on the Internet.
- talking to your teenager often about what they do and see on the Internet.
- talking about some of the risks in an age-appropriate way. This could include risks of prosecution if they are caught using the Internet in an unlawful way, for example, storing inappropriate material and trading in pornographic material.
- explain that, increasingly, people’s activities on the Internet are able to be monitored electronically to obtain evidence of inappropriate activity.
- agree some ‘rules’ with your child when they play on the Internet
- limit the amount of time your child can spend on the Internet.
Suggested ‘rules’ for surfing the Internet
One way to protect children from the dangers of the Internet is to agree some rules when on the Internet. Here are some suggestions:
- “I will keep my identity private and I won’t share information about my family that could be damaging.”
- “I will never get together with someone I ‘meet’ online without telling my parents who I’m meeting and where.”
- “I won’t respond to e-mail, chat comments, instant messages or other messages that are hostile or inappropriate in any way, or make me feel uncomfortable.”
- “I will check with my parents before downloading or installing software, or doing anything that could possibly hurt our computer."
- “I will be a good online citizen and not do anything that hurts other people or is against the law."
What else you can do
To help you monitor what your child is doing and seeing online, try:
- if necessary, up-skilling yourself about the technology
- checking the history of sites visited
- monitoring your telephone bill
- installing a software security system which filters what sites can be visited
- using passwords
- Many children are IT-savvy, and know how to get around filtering systems. So consider contacting your local IPS provider about setting up a filtering service at their end.
The Internet outside home
Even if your child doesn’t access the Internet at home, it’s likely they’ll do so at school, their friend’s house or in an Internet Café.
What you can expect from school
Schools are required to have an Internet policy and put in place procedures to ensure that your child will be safe online. Ask your teenager’s teacher or headteacher for information on their policies and procedures.
Internet cafes are very popular with teenagers because there is very little, if any, supervision. As a parent it’s probably impossible to stop your child visiting internet cafes, however, you can help them protect themselves by:
- making the Internet available at home where you can supervise
- talking to your teenager about the dangers of the Internet and agreeing some rules with them about how they will surf the Net
- knowing who your teenager is spending their time with and where they are when they’re not at home
- developing a strong, open relationship with your teenager and encouraging them to talk to you if they have any problems or concerns.
- Safe websites and search engines
There are many sites which are safe for children and teenagers. You might like to recommend these sites to your children. Visit wwww.Safetech.net