Internet Safety – Guidance for Trinity Parents
This guide is aimed at helping parents understand online safety issues and gives practical help about Internet use.
But my kids know more than I do!
Many adults can feel intimidated in using the Internet and are baffled by some of the terms and technology. While it is true that many children may have better technical skills than you, children still need parental advice and protection in using this new tool. After all, you can teach your children the importance of wearing a seat belt in a car without understanding how the car engine works!
So what are the dangers?
The Internet is like bringing a city into your living room: there are the exciting places for children to go and enjoy but also lots of places where you wouldn’t want your children to go unsupervised! The main dangers for children can be grouped into:
- Potential CONTACT – from someone online who may wish to harm them. Children must re-learn the ‘stranger = danger’ rule in a new context and never give out personal details or meet alone with anyone they’ve contacted via the Internet. It is possible for potentially dangerous individuals to contact young people using an alias. Often young people give out information innocently and are unaware of how potentially dangerous it is.
- Inappropriate CONTENT – keep an eye on the material your children are looking at and agree the ground rules about where your children go and how they behave. Also talk about the kind of pictures that they post on their Facebook page e.g. a holiday snap cheerfully sunbathing could attract the wrong kind of attention.
- Excessive COMMERCIALISM and advertising which invades your child’s privacy. Encourage your children not to fill out forms, which ask for lots of personal details.
Can’t I just use a filter?
Filtering software can help to block a lot of inappropriate material but they are not 100% effective and are no substitute for good parental involvement. Internet use at school is generally filtered, supervised and safe. But many children use a computer at a friend’s house, Internet cafes, libraries and youth clubs where there may be no filters and little supervision. It’s therefore important to help educate your children about how to behave online and discuss problems, which they may have. It helps to keep the computer in a family room – not tucked away in a bedroom. It is important to get them to show you what they are doing on a regular basis.
What about mobile phones?
The issues about being careful online apply equally to mobile phones particularly as more and more have Internet access. It is very important to encourage your children not to give out their mobile numbers to strangers or people they cannot trust completely. Children can receive abusive text messages, be vulnerable to commercial phone pressures and run up large phone bills. Talk about the sort of text messages your children are receiving and sending. They can also be at risk of accessing and distributing inappropriate content and images.
Stick to the positive
Encourage your children to stick to the fun and positive sites on the Internet that reinforce their interests. Just as you look out for good TV programmes for children take the time to find the best and most useful websites for you and your family. Help them to realise that some sites are more trustworthy than others e.g. sites recommended by the school through the school website and Trinity Learning Gateway.
Communicating your issues
If you start by telling your child never to do something most children will ask “Why not?” and then try to find out! Discussing the potential dangers with your children therefore needs care and sensitivity and involves helping them to see for themselves how they might get into difficulty. Most children will respond more positively if you encourage them to be SMART (see the Guidance for Trinity Pupils and SMART Safety Tips) on the Internet rather than giving them a list of ‘dos and don’ts’.
What you can do right now
- Get involved in your children’s Internet use. Discussing the opportunities and risks with children involves helping them to see for themselves how they might get into and out of difficulty. Make sure your child knows the SMART rules.
- Agree as a family about personal information, time spent online, and contacting people via the Internet. Many sites such as Youtube, MSN, Bebo, Piczo, Facebook and Myspace have been created to make Internet communication easier and more exciting. These sites can be fun but are prone to abuse as there is often no moderation of their content. Use of these sites should be very carefully monitored. Communication websites often have a ‘logging’ facility and this should be turned on and locked on as it can be a useful monitoring tool. Social networking sites are very popular but youngsters need help in setting the permissions and priviledges correctly. For example, ask them who can see their photographs.
- Create a family email address for registering online.
- Bookmark your family’s favourite websites.
- Encourage children to talk to someone they trust if they feel worried or upset by something that happens online.