When we browse the internet, often we come across photos of missing children. In this week alone I have seen more than 30 missing children posters broadcasted on Facebook. Most of those missing children were reported to have been chatting to unknown individuals on their computers or phones, arranging a friendly meet. Children need to be educated on the risks that come with sharing information and photos with strangers.
Become interested in what your child does online. Take the time to talk to your child about the internet, stay nearby or sit with them while they go online, encourage them to explore the internet, and share online activities with them. This reduces online risks. Speak to your child about all the different ways in which they use the internet (playing games, chatting, email, shopping or searching for information). Become a part of your child’s journey into the world of the web.
Explore what your child thinks is meant by the term ‘cyber safety’.
Cyber safety is the safe and responsible use of information that is sent and shared over the internet.
It is so important for children to become web wise. They need to be aware that information and photos can be copied and shared, and may land up on the phone or computer of the wrong person, who may want to hurt them. They also need to know that strangers that they engage in conversation with are not always who they say they are.
Share and discuss the following safety rules about internet usage with your children:
The Golden Rules about email
• Never give out your email address to someone you don’t know.
• Never open emails from people or organisations/businesses you don’t know.
• Email can contain all sorts of bad stuff, like hoaxes and chain mail scams that try to get your money.
• Computer viruses can be carried as attachments to email messages.
• Inappropriate or illegal picture or movie files can be attached to an email message.
The Golden Rules about chat rooms and online communication
• Never meet with someone you met online in real life.
• Only give your email address to known friends—never to strangers.
• Seek advice from a responsible adult—never be tempted or pressured to meet someone in real life that you
have met online.
• If someone or something disturbs you in a chat room, leave and find one that your parents have agreed you
The Golden Rules about online publishing
• Make sure you only put ‘safe’ pics online.
• Password protect the site with photos.
• Always get permission from your mum, dad, carer or teacher to create your own site, and get them to review
• Personal information should never be entered, even into blogs or discussion groups.
• You need to be very careful with what you put on the internet, because when it is published, the whole
world will be able to see and possibly misuse the information.
Get a blank sheet of A3 paper and let your child draw a portrait of him/herself on it.
Then take smaller pieces of paper and allow your child to write what they have posted or shared about themselves online or in chat rooms within the last week. This could be anything from their names and surnames, address, activities they have partaken in or photos of themselves). Stick the pieces of paper with the information on, around the self-portrait.
Explore the following questions with your child:
• Who did they share the information with?
• How did they share it (via a post of Facebook, in an email or while chatting with someone)?
• Would this be information or photos that they would be comfortable showing to their teachers or parents?
• Would they be comfortable if this personal information or the photos were uploaded onto a website without their consent?
• How would they feel if other people, unknown to them, would be able to view their personal information and photos?
Do you as a parent know what sexting is? It is when people take and send sexually revealing pictures of themselves or send sexually explicit messages via text messages.
In a technological world where anything can be copied, sent, posted and seen by huge audiences, there is no such thing as being able to control information or photos sent.
Now share this image with your child:
Explain to your children, that when they upload a photo, a new status or any personal information, it can be shared and viewed by many people. It has become so easy to copy and share information.
Children should also be aware that there are predators that that go online to search for young and vulnerable individuals, and when their photo is shared, it might be sent to the computer of a person that intends to harm them.
Paedophiles have been known to use this method to contact young people by disguising themselves as another young person. This can lead to gaining the trust of an individual and their friends. These false relationships based on lies can often pave way for exposure to upsetting images and online content and in some cases arranging a meeting in person.
Online grooming is the term used to describe inappropriate behaviour towards a young person, putting them at risk to a sexual offence.
Even if nothing dangerous does happen, knowing you may have had contact with somebody like this can be extremely upsetting.
Advice for parents:
• Don’t wait for an incident to happen to your child or your child’s friend before you talk about the consequences of sexting – by then it is too late.
• Remind your kids that once an image is sent, it can never be retrieved – and they will lose control over it.
• Ask your child how he/she will feel if their teachers, parents, friends or enemies saw the pictures or texts that they send. If this thought makes them uncomfortable, they should look at what they are sending.
• Talk about the pressures to send revealing photos, or take part in sending sexually explicit text messages. Let them know that you understand how they can be pushed into sending something, but that the social humiliation is far worse.
• Teach your child that they have the responsibility and the power to become part of the solution. If someone sends them a sexual photo or text, they should delete it immediately, and not share it with others
• They must also be made aware that distributing pornography is illegal.
It is your responsibility, as a parent, to educate your children on cyber safety. You should also be aware of social networking and keep up to date with the applications.
BE SAFE AND KEEP YOUR CHILD WEBWISE!