Guidance for parents and guardians

As responsible parents or guardians you would never leave a child alone in a strange area, let them visit a city unsupervised, let them enter adult-only shops or clubs or meet a total stranger.

  • Unfortunately, every time the child in your care logs on to the web without supervision they face the same potential dangers are they do in all the situations above.
  • The opportunities offered by the web can be exploited. It can allow those who target children to enter your home and interact with your children.
  • The Internet continues to grow in its importance to our society and possibly has even more significance in our children's lives. Parents and carers of all kinds need to be familiar with both the opportunities and the dangers of the web.
  • Chat room users can be exploited by certain adults, who use tricks and subterfuge to hide their true identities and intentions.
  • By following a few simple steps it is possible to use the internet to its full potential without encountering any of the pitfalls.
  • As well as following the advice in these pages, you may also want to contact your local computer retailer to find out about protective software packages that you can install on your machine.

How you can reduce the risk

  • Try to site computers in an area where it is easy to monitor what your child is doing. If possible have it in a family room like the living room.
  • Establish reasonable guidelines for their use of the internet or chat line. Talk about the six tips for chat room use with them, print them off and place them in a visible place near the computer.
  • Become familiar with the internet and the services or sites your child uses.
  • Get to know the language your child uses, there are a lot of short cuts for instance, h8 for hate, u for you, RU for are you etc.
  • Get to know their on-line friends in the same way you would their other friends
  • If your child arranges to meet an on-line friend ensure it is in public place with a responsible adult present
  • Encourage them to come to you if they see or read anything on the internet which upsets them
  • If in doubt, contact the police.

If you think your teenager is too savvy or streetwise to get themselves into danger, it is worth noting that a survey found around one in 20 of children aged between seven and 16 admitted seeing something on the web that upset or embarrassed them.

Social Networking

Social Networking websites utilise applications which help connect friends using a number of tools like blogs, profiles, internal email systems and photos. Well known sites include Bebo, Myspace and Facebook

  • Encourage them only to upload pictures that you as their parents / carer would be happy to see. It's also not a good idea to post pictures which can identify the school which your child attends since this could help someone locate them.
  • Don't let your children add people as friends they don't know.
  • Tell your children not to post their phone number or email address on their homepage.
  • Ask them to show you how to use a social networking site - getting involved will empower them to share the experience with you.