Children can be exposed to a wide variety of unique security risks when online and using the Internet.
The Internet can provide an incredible learning and communication experience for children, so long as you follow simple precautions. Talk together about the Internet and agree ground rules for its use. Parental interest and involvement is the most effective protection.
How children use the Internet.
Children access the Internet through PCs, mobile phones and games consoles – at home, at school, in friends’ houses, in libraries, in Internet Cafés and on the move. They use it for homework, online games, blogs, instant messaging and e-mail.
It’s fun, it’s social, it’s educational and it’s creative but it’s important that they use the Internet wisely. That means being empowered to make the right decisions and avoid dangerous situations. Engage with your children and their technology. Learn with them, know what they are doing and where they are going online.
Parental involvement is key.
There are various Internet filtering tools available to help protect children. While their use is recommended, it is important to point out that there is no substitute for parental involvement.
Empower your children to protect themselves.
We can’t be with our children all the time, so it is important to give them skills to make the right decisions in potentially risky situations or, better still, to avoid these situations altogether. If we engage with our children and their technology, we can learn with them, know what they are doing and where they are going online.
What risk does it pose?
• Inadvertent exposure to inappropriate images or content.
• Solicitation by sexual predators in chat rooms, social networking sites and by email.
• Online bullying or harassment.
• Piracy of software, music or video.
• Disclosure of personal information.
• Spyware and viruses.
• Excessive commercialism: advertising and product-related websites.
• Illegal downloads, such as copyright-protected music files.
What to do?
• Understand the risks yourself and plan ahead before allowing children access to the internet.
• Decide, agree and communicate what your children can and cannot do online.
• Work out how you are going to monitor their internet use.
• The boundaries you set and the kind of conversations you have with your children will depend on their age and technical ability as well as your judgement as parents.
• These factors will change as they grow up and should be reconsidered regularly.
Guidelines for children’s use of the internet
You need to agree ground rules for your children’s use of the internet.
The objective is not only to establish boundaries but also to help children understand the reasons why these rules exist so that they can take responsibility for their own actions and develop their own judgement.
We suggest that you:
• Set limits on when they can use the computer and for how long.
• Agree what types of sites are permissible and which are not.
• Encourage them to come to you if anything online makes them feel uncomfortable or threatened.
• Make it very clear that they must not give out personal information without your permission. In particular, addresses, phone numbers, school details, passwords or pictures. Also take care to limit children’s access to credit card and bank information.
• Warn them to be careful about giving away their email address in chat rooms or when registering for sites.
• Forbid them to meet anyone in person that they encounter online without your consent and without a responsible adult present.
• Agree what types of sites are permissible and which are not; for example you may make a policy of not allowing them to use un-moderated chat rooms or to use file sharing programs.
• Restrict their ability to download software, music or other files without your permission.
• Agree whether (or not) they are allowed to spend money online. Although you might not give them your credit card, if you have already stored your details at an online store it may be easy for children to spend your money if you don’t take steps to limit their access or agree ground rules.
• Explain what viruses and spyware are, what you are doing to prevent them and ask them to come to you if they get an alert while online.
• Research age-appropriate internet sites that you can suggest to your children.
• Take extra steps to protect younger kids. Keep the computer in an open area like the kitchen or family room, so you can keep an eye on what your kids are doing online. Use the Internet with them to help develop safe surfing habits. Consider taking advantage of parental control features on some operating systems that let you manage your kids’ computer use, including what sites they can visit, whether they can download items, or what time of day they can be online.
It is important that children understand the nature of the internet. Consider discussing the following points with your children.
• People online are not necessarily who they say they are and bad people can sometimes appear friendly and good.
• How to weigh up information found online and how to spot the difference between fact and opinion.
• How to use online resources with homework. It’s okay to research online but simply cutting and pasting information is cheating.
• The nature of internet piracy – downloading music, television, films, games and other software. Just because the internet makes it easy, it doesn’t make it right.
• How you expect your children to behave towards other people while they are online. Explain that gossiping, bullying etc. are unacceptable.
• Talk to your kids about online pornography and direct them to good, age-appropriate sites about relationships and sexuality.
• Go where your kids go online. Sign up for – and use – the social networking spaces that your kids visit. Let them know that you’re there, and help teach them how to act as they socialise online.
Monitoring children’s behaviour online
• For younger children, always sit with them while they are online.
• Ask your children to share all their online user names and passwords with you.
• Set your web browser to limit access to inappropriate content. For example, to do this in Internet Explorer: go to the Tools menu and click Internet Options. Select the Content tab and then click Enable under Content Advisor.
• Encourage your children to share their internet experience with you and make it a shared family experience.
• Put the computer in an open area in the home rather than in their bedrooms.
• Consider installing internet monitoring software to track what they do online.
• Consider installing internet filtering software that may block access to some unacceptable sites or only allow access to sites you have approved.
• Ensure that your children use only monitored chat rooms on reputable kids’ sites.
• Set up a limited user account on the family computer that restricts what they can do without your permission
• Don’t rely on a single technical solution. Supervision and education are also part of good parenting.
• Use an up-to-date web browser with a built-in pop-up filter to prevent unwanted adverts appearing onscreen.
• Set your web browsers start up web page to point to a kid-friendly home page. For example, in Internet Explorer go to the Tools menu, select Internet Options. On the Generaltab, under Home page, type the address of the chosen site.
1. Discover the Internet together.
Discovering the Internet together is advantageous for both parents and children. Look for web sites that are exciting and fun and together, you’ll achieve a positive and conscious attitude to Internet exploration. This in turn, could make it easier to share both positive and negative experiences in the future.
2. Agree with your child on guidelines for Internet use in your home.
Try to agree a set of guidelines with your child, for Internet use in your home. Here are some tips to get started:
• How to treat your personal information (name, address, telephone, e-mail)
• How to behave towards others on the net (chat, e-mailing, messaging)
• What type of sites and activities are OK or not OK in our family
3. Encourage your child to be careful when disclosing personal information.
Parents should be aware that, in order to access content on many children’s websites, personal information must be submitted. You and your child should be conscious of when and where it is all right to reveal personal information. A simple rule could be that the child should not give out their name, phone number or picture without your approval.
4. Talk about the risks associated with meeting online friends face to face.
Adults should understand that the Internet could be a positive meeting place for children, where they can get to know other children and make new friends. To avoid unpleasant experiences, however, it’s important that children do not meet strangers they have met on the Internet – without being accompanied by an adult, friends or others that you trust. In any case, the child should always have their parents’ approval first.
5. Teach your child about source criticism on the Internet.
Most children use the Internet to improve and develop knowledge in relation to schoolwork and personal interests. Internet users should be aware that not all information found online is correct. Educate children on how to verify information they find by comparing to alternative sources on the same topic.
6. Don’t be too critical towards your child’s exploration of the Internet.
Children may come across adult material by accident on the Web. They might mistype a web address or inadvertently click on a malicious link. You could use this as an opportunity to discuss the content with them and perhaps make rules about what they should do when they encounter inappropriate content. Be realistic in your assessment of how your child uses the Internet. Curiosity might get the better of them from time to time. It is best for everyone to have a clear understanding of what you deem to be acceptable.
7. Report online material you may consider illegal to the appropriate authorities.
It is vital that we all take responsibility for the Web and report matters, which we believe, could be illegal to www.hotline.ie. By doing this we can help to prevent illegal activities online, such as child-pornography or attempts to lure children via chat, mail or messaging. The hotline has mechanisms for getting this type of content taken down. It also has links with similar organisations across the globe so that the criminals can be brought to book even if they are outside our jurisdiction.
8. Encourage good Netiquette.
Netiquette is the informal code of conduct for the Internet. As in everyday life, there are informal ethical rules for how to behave when relating to other people on the Internet. These include being polite, using correct language and not yell at (write in capital letters) or harass others. Also, children as well as grown ups should not read one other’s e-mail or copy protected material.
9. Know your child’s Internet use.
To be able to guide your child’s Internet use, it is important to understand how children use the Internet and know what they like to do on-line. Let your child show you which websites they like visiting and what they do there. Acquiring technical knowledge could also make it easier to make the right decisions regarding your child’s Internet use.
10. Remember that the positive aspects of the Internet outweigh the negatives.
The Internet is an excellent educational and recreational resource for children. Encourage your child to be aware and to explore the Internet to its full potential.