The internet is an amazing resource that has revolutionised how children work and play. But there are downsides and it’s vital that you make the whole family aware of these.
1. There are so many websites to choose from, which can be a double-edged sword. Sign up to fibre broadband from Virgin Media for instance, and your kids have super-fast access to a whole world of useful information, ideal for researching school projects. Unfortunately, your child can also access any type of website, including social networking sites, chat rooms and violent or pornographic sites.
2. People are not always who they say they are – false identities are easy to create online and information you read on the internet may not be true. Encourage your children to chat online only to real friends and family.
3. There are some nasty people out there – because it is easy to create false identities, individuals who lie about their ages may be internet predators who target children. You should make your kids aware of the dangers of child grooming and cyberbullying.
4. As soon as information is online, it’s public – with the internet there’s no guarantee that what you post online will stay where you put it. Friends can share private messages, Facebook accounts can be hacked and company privacy policies can change. If your child doesn’t want a message or picture to be viewed publicly, they shouldn’t post it.
5. Your Internet reputation stays with you forever – once information is online, it becomes very difficult to completely remove because the internet has – so far as we know at this point in history – a limitless memory. Your child should be aware that even if they close down their Facebook account or take information offline, someone may still be able to access and use it.
6. Don’t overshare – the internet makes it very easy to bare all. So make sure your children understand that they can share snippets of their life without providing too much information.
7. Personal information should be kept under wraps – anyone who posts contact details online is inviting trouble. Your children should be very careful before revealing personal information and unwittingly opening themselves up to scammers, stalkers, identity thieves, child predators, robbers and other unwholesome individuals. Educate your children about the importance of maximising their privacy settings if they use social media sites and help them to create strong passwords that would be difficult to guess.
8. Online actions affect others – many children and teenagers assume that anything and everything can be shared with their online friends. A seemingly innocuous, throwaway comment about someone could have disastrous consequences and even be classified as cyberbullying.
9. There is life offline – remind your children that there is another, real world, where people enjoy the weather, go shopping, read books, watch films collectively, play games, exercise and enjoy face-to-face conversations. The internet should be an extracurricular activity for your children and not take over their lives.
10. Remember who’s in control – obviously your child is in control when they use the internet but remember that it’s your responsibility as a parent to keep an eye on their behaviour and monitor their web use. There are some useful parental controls which allow you to block sites that you deem unsuitable for your child – these range from customisable settings within your computer to software packages.
By all means buy the latest fibre optic broadband package so that your family can take advantage of what the internet has to offer, but do take the time to make sure that you protect them from the sometimes unpleasant realities of the online world.