July 22, 2008

Protect Kids From the Net ; You and Yours

ONCE again, research has highlighted the dangers kids face when using the internet.

Recent findings showed that 11 per cent of children have had a sexually explicit conversation online and a quarter have visited adult websites.

Almost half the kids surveyed said they lie to their parents about their activities on the net, while 87 per cent of parents thought they knew what their children were accessing.

Obviously, these numbers don't add up and perhaps we have to accept that even the most sensible youngsters are accessing sites they shouldn't.

Although parents are worried about allowing their kids to use the internet, we should remember it can be a wonderful resource for learning and exploration.

The best way to make sure you know your children will be safe online is to become internet aware yourself.

Teach your kids about internet safety and monitor their activity. Use these tips for making sure your kids are safe.

Firstly, install parental control software onto your computer. This can prevent certain sites being accessed by your kids and can help you to monitor what they're doing. But they are not sufficient to protect your children without additional supervision.

Talk to your internet service provider about whether they provide this software.

Educate yourself about the internet, supervise their internet usage and make sure they understand the dangers of using the net and how best to avoid them.

It might be uncomfortable for you to talk to your kids about unsuitable material on the net, but it is best to be open with them. If you speak openly with your children about the risks involved it should be easier for them to talk to you if they get intoa situation that worries them.

Set ground rules you both agree will be used when they are on the internet.

It might be useful to use the NCH's Net Smart Rules; they are available from their website, www.nch.org.uk.

These rules cover issues such as not giving out any personal information over the internet, never posting photographs of yourself and never arranging to meet anyone you encounter online.

Try to learn as much about what your kids are doing as possible. Ask them to show you the websites they visit and check they are appropriate.

Make sure they are not hiding anything from you. If you don't know how to do this, it's time to learn. Many local libraries offer IT classes.

Make sure your kids aren't talking to people they don't know online. Many sites have facilities for blocking emails from anyone not on a specified list of contacts.

Finally, if you notice any worrying changes in their behaviour, you can also get advice from the NSPCC (0808 800 5000).

Rosemarie Lynass is a member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy

(c) 2008 Daily Record; Glasgow (UK). Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.