|The number of Internet users in the United Kingdom is around 34.3 million, over half the population.
But the figures which are causing concern amongst parents is the increasing percentage of young people who gain access to the internet through their schools and colleges.
Factors such as:
- The growing number of children and teenagers who have access to the internet
- The low teacher/pupil ratio
- The increasing ease of access to the internet through cyber cafés and library facilities
- The technological sophistication of children using the internet
have raised a new and vital dilemma: How can we let our children have access to this vast resource, without compromising their mental or moral safety?
The principal concerns for parents are:
- What can be viewed or read online
- Software and virus download issues
- Who can be "met" online and the follow-on implications
Using these simple guidelines, your children should be safe surfing, learning and having fun online!
Dealing with your Concerns
There are a lot of interesting and educational sites for children and teenagers to surf on the internet. There are also a lot of people and websites, so you need to be careful.
Talk with your children or teenagers so that you can set up rules for going online. Discuss your concerns with them, the implications which these will have for them personally, and establish general rules for internet use. This will help heighten their awareness, allow them to understand the reasoning behind the rules, and allow them to use the PC in the safest possible manner.
Decide with your children when they can be online, the length of time they can spend online, what sites are appropriate for them to visit and their reasons for being online. Establish what is acceptable and unacceptable, and make clear what the penalties for misuse will be.
Sharing your Home Computer
If your child is using a computer at home, which you also use for office or personal use, remember that a lot of information can be contained on the computer that can easily be accidentally deleted, changed or accessed by the wrong person. Establish what is accessible and inaccessible. If you have only one password for e-mail accounts, make sure that the wrong hands do not open your e-mails if they are expected to be of a sensitive nature! If they receive e-mail, make sure they do not to click on any links that are contained in e-mails received from anyone they don't know. Such links could lead to them to accessing inappropriate websites or the attachments could even contain viruses.
Downloads and Viruses
The internet can be a great source of free software, images and games. This can be a great money saver and can provide access to many otherwise inaccessible resources. However, it can also cause problems in relation to viruses, and can eat into the memory available on your PC if too many items are downloaded. If your children are using your computer, consider what your approach is in relation to this, and think about installing an anti-virus programme or putting a partial ban on unofficial downloads.
Chat Rooms and Discussion Groups
Consider whether you want your child to use chat rooms and discussion groups. These can be fun to use, encourage interactivity and be a great source of companionship and shared interests resources. Unfortunately, they also have the potential to cause concern. The following rules are suggested for children and teenagers when dealing with chat rooms:
- Do not give out any personal information such as address, telephone number, the name and location of your school, or the work address / telephone number of your parents.
- Do not respond in any way to messages that are mean or that make you feel uncomfortable. Ignore the sender and end all communication. It is not your fault if you get a message like that and if you do, tell your parents right away so that they can contact the service provider.
- Never send a person your picture, contact details, or anything else without first checking that this is all right.
- Never ever agree to meet with someone you have "met" online without permission from your parents. If your parents agree to the meeting, make sure that it is in a public place and take your mother or father along.
- Be a good online citizen and do not do anything that hurts other people or is against the law. Always treat others on the internet the way you want to be treated.