The internet has become a fantastic educational and entertainment tool for adults and children alike and as long as it is used carefully and safely, there should be no problems. However, for those parents who use Social Media sites and/or chatrooms, it is easy for them to see that their children need to be educated on the dangers posed by the internet.
Most internet users are familiar with Social Media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, MySpace and Xanga. Young people love them as they allow them to communicate with friends, share information and make new friends based on shared interests. However, therein lies the danger as children are mostly unaware of the dangers of using these sites as follows:
2) Identity theft from posting so much personal information as well as photo’s
3) Being sent inappropriate material
4) Possible grooming for child abuse
Parents can take steps to protect their children as follows:
1) Show children the dangers of posting or giving out personal information.
2) A separate e-mail account should be set up for social networking which can be closed down if necessary.
3) Their passwords should be strong and always kept secret, even from their friends.
4) Children must be made aware that anything said in cyber-space stays there forever and cannot be deleted.
5) They should also be made aware of the privacy settings which can be set for their profiles. Most social media sites have these settings which can be used to restrict viewing of profiles. They should also be warned not to accept “friend” requests from people they do not know.
Chat has become very popular amongst teens and has very quickly become one of the most popular activities on the net. People can chat to each other by typing messages which appear on the computer screens of others almost immediately. It is like e-mail but takes place in real-time. Usually people will use nicknames so that they remain completely anonymous.
There are mainly 2 dangers of chat rooms as follows:
1) It is easy to forget that a chat room is a public place and you don’t know who is reading your messages and collecting personal information about you which could later be used against the you. Internet predators have been known to use these chat rooms and it is amazing the amount of information which can be obtained such as the child’s phone number, the school the child attends and where they go outside of school hours.
2) One never knows the true identity of a person they are “chatting” to. Predators are known to set up fake profiles and to masquerade as children in order to get chatting with children and extract personal information.
How to stay safe in chat rooms:
1) Parents should talk to their children about what they are doing online and who they are chatting to. Children should be warned about the nature of internet predators and should be encouraged to tell their parents about any problems.
2) Children should never, ever agree to meet a stranger in person, unless in a public place in the daytime and accompanied by a responsible adult. Parents should ideally be the adult and should at least know about the meeting if not.
3) Only allow them to use moderated chat rooms, that is chat rooms which are monitored closely by administrators who will be on the lookout for predators and suspicious activity.
Remember to be vigilant at all times while your child is on the internet and be sure that they are savvy with regards their personal information, who they share it with and who they talk to. Look at the material that they are being sent, to ensure that it is appropriate for their age. Also be careful about cyber bullying by watching what is being posted on their profiles by others and what is being said to them via chat rooms. Overall, make sure that they are benefiting as much as possible from the Internet – it is indeed a wonderful resource!