The internet is a fantastic resource for education, communication and entertainment. Our children have grown up with the internet/electronic devices and can seem much more adept at using it than we are – which sometimes leaves parents feeling out of their depth. Children are, however, much more likely to be harmed via the internet than in the real world; therefore it is important that parents take responsibility to keep their children safe on-line. For this reason we invited our local youth police officer to speak to parents about internet safety.
E- Safety for Parents
One Monday evening we were given lots of food for thought by PC Nessling – a youth officer with Essex Police for the last 10 years. Her case load is now 70% related to the internet in some way!
We began with an exercise to familiarise us with text language – most of which we parents were bemused by! (E.g. FTS? PIR, KPC, A/S/L? – answers at the bottom if – like me – you have no idea!) Here is the key information that she gave us:
- A child’s on-line persona can be very different from how they are in real life; they may use abbreviations in texts that are rude as it is seen as normal. They may behave on a very different way because they are ‘behind a screen’ and not interacting directly with the other person.
- Children feel invincible on –line; they think they know the risks and have an ‘It’ll never happen to me’ attitude.
- One of the real dangers is accepting ‘friend requests’ from people they don’t know in real life. This is partly due to the ‘competition’ around how many ‘friends/followers’ they have.
- The minimum age for a social network account is 13 – however many children have accounts from a much younger age than this.
- Children often have more than one Facebook/Instagram/Snapchat account – this means that when you ask to see their account they may only be showing you one of many!
- Paedophiles can easily pretend to be anything by creating a fake profile of a nice, good-looking, young person. They can also research on social media a child’s interests, location, school etc. and pose as a friend – gaining their trust.
- Photos taken on smart phones etc. have a digital footprint which means the location where they are taken can be identified by anyone on the internet.
- 40% of 11-18 year olds admit to sending indecent photos – this is an offence and could lead to a criminal record. 1/3 of those were sent ot people they didn’t know!! 9/10 of photos shared privately end up on paedophile websites.
- Even innocuous pictures can be ‘stolen’ by others and turned into indecent photos by having captions added etc.
- Children have grown up with the internet – they do not understand the clear difference that we have between their ‘real world’ and their ‘virtual world’ – the boundaries are blurred because they are so dependant in the internet.
- Remember that anything on the internet is PUBLIC – even if it is only up there for a few seconds it can be saved, screenshotted and sent on to any number of websites/people.
- Remember even games for young people e.g. Club Penguin, Candy Crush Saga etc. can be used by people pretending to be children; therefore
- Children are far more likely to come to harm on line than in ‘real’ life; sometimes from their peers who may use the internet for bullying or for using indecent images to blackmail others– the emotional and psychological effects are huge.
- Keep social media setting as private as possible.
- Monitor what your child is doing.
- Set a good example to your children of what you post online – words and pictures.
- Switch off Location Services on smart phones.
- Children should never move from within a game situation to communicate with other players via messages/e-mail.
- Don’t have a profile picture/share information on line that is likely to attract the wrong kind of attention.
- Above all…communication with your children is absolutely vital – get talking about what your child is doing on line; be involved.
- Websites for further information: thinkuknow.co.uk www.ceop.police.uk
(Answers: FTS? Free to Speak? PIR – parent in room, KPC – Keeping parents clueless, A/S/L – Age/Sex/Location)