It is the door that leads to cyberspace. Do you recall having shut that door last time you got off the computer? These days it becomes more and more apparent that you should. And I am not just referring to viruses, identity theft and spam. I am also referring to children and their safety when it comes to the Internet. Safety – an important Factor.
Most parents try incredibly hard to keep their little ones safe. They put them in good schools, they reside in safe neighbourhoods, they watch them when they play outdoors, and lock them in their homes at night. The last thing they want is for something evil to slip in and hurt them.
Unfortunately these days a physical approach is not enough. Not in cyberspace. The Internet has made it simple for evil to slip in quietly through the back door. The predator doesn’t even have to be near your child. A predator can be thousands of miles away and still make contact with your child via a mouse click and a keyboard. As terrifying as it sounds, it unfortunately has become our modern day reality.
Children can be exposed to:
- online bullying
- pornographic images/ads
- extreme websites (i.e. pro-anorexia/bulimia)
- harassment (i.e. sexual harassment)
- Identity theft
- violent computer games or other websites with violent content
- adult chat rooms
and much more. When children surf the net they don’t look for any of these websites or any particular content. It could be a pop up ad or another ad on social networking websites such as Facebook or my Space that triggers their curiosity.
Parents must focus on Safety when their children use a computer. There are ways to keep your child far from the clutches of a sexual predator. It is vital that you know how to use your own computer. With both Mac computers and PCs, there is an option known as Parental Control. You can alter the settings under your Internet Options or Control Panel. Put restrictions on your browser so that children in your home cannot accidentally “stumble” upon unsavoury websites or chat rooms.
There are a few other ways to safe guard your children. If you wish to take Internet safety a step further, monitor your children each time they go online. Be part of their “online playground”. However, this may not work once children are in their teens.
If you allow your child to use the Internet it is vital, even with restrictions you might have placed using your control panel, that you still keep track of where they are visiting and with whom they are chatting with. You could also come up with passwords your children will not be able to figure out even if they try.
Teach your children to protect their privacy when online. You would not give out your name, personal address; email address, passwords, phone number, etc. Teach your children to do the same. It is vital that they understand how to protect themselves. It is also vital that they are taught not to open any emails from unknown sources, not to open attachments. They should not respond to offensive messages or do anything they feel is out of the norm.
As per the NSPCC 9500 web pages were removed by the Internet Watch Foundation worldwide in 2013, 70000 indecent images of children were reported to CEOP in 2012 and 100s of pro-eating disorder websites are estimated to exist.
It is true that the Internet can be a great resource and tool but it is also true that the internet can be a dangerous doorway. Communicate with your child and encourage your child to come forward when they encounter anything out of the ordinary.