Keeping Children Safe
Whatever it's called - ‘Cyberspace,’ the ‘Web,’ or the ‘Net,’ - the majority of people in developed nations are now going online to exchange electronic mail (E-mail) and instant messages; participate in chat groups; post and read messages in social networking sites and blogs, “surf” the world wide web; and many other online activities. Children are no exception - in fact, they are more likely to be online than adults.
Children can go online from personal computers at home, a friend’s house, in school, a library, club, or cafe. Many game consoles can be connected to the Internet and used for chatting and other online interaction. It is also possible to access the Internet on mobile devices such as cellular telephones and other handheld devices. In other words, children don’t have to be in the company of responsible adults to use the Internet.
Even though companies that provide Internet access strive to provide their subscribers with an enjoyable, safe, and rewarding online experience, it’s not possible for these companies to monitor everyone who uses their service anymore than a local government can control the behavior of the people within its borders. There are no censors on the Internet. Anyone in the world — companies, governments, organizations, and individuals — can publish material on the Internet.
How Parents Can Reduce the Risks
While children need a certain amount of privacy, they also need parental involvement and supervision in their daily lives. The same general parenting skills that apply to the “real world” also apply while online. If you have cause for concern about your children’s online activities, talk to them.
Set reasonable rules and guidelines for computer use by your children. By taking responsibility for your children’s online computer use, parents can greatly minimize any potential risks of being online. Make it a family rule to:
Never give out identifying information — home address, school name, or telephone number — in a public message such as chat or newsgroups, and be sure you’re dealing with someone both you and your children know and trust before giving out this information via E-mail. Think carefully before revealing any personal information such as age, financial information, or marital status. Do not post photographs of your children in newsgroups or on web sites that are available to the public. Consider using a pseudonym, avoid listing your child’s name and E-mail address in any public directories and profiles, and find out about your ISP’s privacy policies and exercise your options for how your personal information may be used.
Get to know the Internet and any services your child uses. If you don’t know how to log on, get your child to show you. Have your child show you what he or she does online, and become familiar with all the activities that are available online. Find out if your child has a free web-based E-mail account, such as those offered by Hotmail and Yahoo!® , and learn their user names and passwords.
Never allow a child to arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone they “meet” on the Internet without parental permission. If a meeting is arranged, make the first one in a public place, and be sure to accompany your child.
Never respond to messages that are suggestive, obscene, belligerent, threatening, or make you feel uncomfortable. Encourage your children to tell you if they encounter such messages. If you or your child receives a message that is harassing, of a sexual nature, or threatening, forward a copy of the message to NetWest, and ask for their assistance. Instruct your child not to click on any links that are contained in E-mail from persons they don’t know. Such links could lead to sexually explicit or otherwise inappropriate web sites or could be a computer virus. If someone sends you or your children messages or images that are filthy, indecent, lewd, or obscene with the intent to abuse, annoy, harass, or threaten you, or if you become aware of the transmission, use, or viewing of child pornography while online immediately report it.
Remember that people online may not be who they seem. Because you can’t see or even hear the person it would be easy for someone to misrepresent him- or herself. Thus someone indicating that “she” is a “12-year-old girl” could in reality be a 40-year-old man.