The internet and all of its associated connections is a truly wonderful place for both adults and children. The potential for learning, expanding your horizons, improving your manner in social situations and general entertainment are vast. Unfortunately, so are the dangers …
Most people are very aware of the fact that children’s safety online is currently a big issue. There are software suites, advice guides, even hardware add-ons to help you to accomplish a safer experience for your kids. Although many of these additions offer some value the very best way to maximise the chances of your children enjoying the web safely is EDUCATION.
Many parents are actually less well informed about the internet than they should be. After all, it’s difficult to impart knowledge you don’t have. We have compiled some useful tips to help keep users safe online and although these general guidelines are helpful the guide below is more concerned with your child’s safety.
Educate your kids to be safer online
Be sure to explain to your kids that the Internet is a real community of people who are connected by computers, so treat people that you don’t know on the Internet as strangers that you might meet in a street. They wouldn’t tell a stranger at the bus stop all about themselves so why do it online?
Do not give out any personal information related to your family, friends or yourself like full names, addresses, telephone or mobile numbers or those of your parents. Other information like the name and location of your school or details of school activities can also identify you to others, whether you are in a chat room, message board or newsgroup. Sometimes there are people who watch out for such information, and they can put together a picture of your activities over a period of time that could be several weeks. So be careful with what you say, and never give out your personal details. Even if you think you are only telling your friends other users will almost certainly be able to see the same information.
Be aware when choosing your chat username or email username not to pick a provocative name as you would be more likely to be sent provocative emails or harassed online. Use a name you can easily remember, use a name that you would feel comfortable explaining to Nan or Grandad, use a name that DOES NOT identify you.
Never agree to meet someone whom you’ve met through the Internet, in real life without your parent’s permission, and if they agree, never go alone, but go with a trusted adult. Allow your parents to “vet” the new friend, perhaps speak to them on the ‘phone. If the new friend is as they appear you have nothing to lose and much trust to be earned of your parents
Use common sense. Someone you are chatting to may not be who they say they are. Just because the screen name is “Jenny_13” doesn’t mean the person your are chatting to is called Jenny, or that she is 13 years old, OR EVEN THAT “SHE” ISN’T A 50 YEAR OLD MAN!
Do not fill out forms online without consulting your parents or teachers. There are websites which seek personal information and which use this information for marketing or other commercial purposes. If you are unsure ALWAYS ASK.
Do not open an email from someone you do not know as you may download viruses (which even come from people you do know), or it may have contents that can upset you. Email is fairly unregulated and un-moderated so the contents could be anything. Apart from other concerns, opening that email may just stop your PC from working, why risk it?
Many chain emails or emails with virus warnings are hoaxes. Before you forward virus warnings to your friends and family, check that it is not a hoax. Unless you are completely sure that the email is genuine NEVER forward an email which has attachments or embedded pictures.
Never send pictures of yourself or any other personal material to a friend you met online without consulting your parents first. It is always the safest option never to post pictures of yourself on any public forum. If you want to share pictures on Facebook please set your privacy correctly so that ONLY your friends can see them.
Always tell your parents/teachers if you come across stuff on the Internet which makes you feel uncomfortable, or if someone on the Internet harasses you or threatens you. If every piece of offensive material were reported there would be much less of this type of content available. If someone tries to harass, threaten or intimidate you, let your parents or teacher know immediately. This is often referred to as CYBER BULLYING which we will cover in detail in an upcoming post.
Never respond to provocative, rude, obscene or threatening messages (whether in chat, newsgroups or message boards) which make you feel uncomfortable. Tell your parents or teachers about such messages and where possible, save a copy of the message so that your parents or teachers can forward it to your Internet Service Provider, or use it to make a police report.
Always consider the information you read on websites. Because its on the Internet does not mean that its always truthful information, especially when it comes to health issues, or when you are doing research for homework. Check that the website you are getting your information from is a reliable and reputable one, not one built on hearsay or rumor. If you aren’t sure regarding the trustworthiness of a website please ask your parents or teachers.
When subscribing to public newsletters or programs like media plugins or downloads that require you to give out an email address, use a separate email address from your personal one. This will lessen the number of unwanted emails that you receive. Hotmail, Yahoo and Gmail offer free email accounts, to name just a few.
Help yourself and your kids to enjoy the internet without worry. Most people will find that many of the tips above are common sense whilst others only become obvious after the fact. Be safe and make the most of the world’s biggest information resource!