So what do you know about keeping your children safe online?
The internet is part of our world and that will not change. As parents and carers of children and young people, it is important that you understand the dangers and know what your children are doing online.
Online technology is advancing at such a pace that it can be hard for us to keep up with it all.
It seems the same cannot be said for many young people and children, who are not only aware of the latest gadgets and social networking sites, but more worryingly, how to get rid of parental controls on computers and mobile devices.
Sadly, we live in a world where individuals will use the internet to gain access to our children.
Grooming children and young people on the internet, both in chat rooms and social network sites is on the rise.
What is grooming?
Grooming is when someone plans to make fiends with a child in order to get them to send pornographic images of themselves, to sexually abuse them or to traffic them for prostitution.
Groomers may be male, female, another young person, a stranger or someone you know.
Many children and young people don't understand that they have been groomed, or that it is abuse.
“Sexting” is becoming common among children and young people, where they share inappropriate or explicit images of themselves online or through mobile phones.
Young people sometimes refer to it as cybersex or sending a nudie or selfie.
A Childline survey of 13-18 year olds found:
- 60% said they had been asked for a sexual image or video of themselves
- 40% said they had created an image or video of themselves
- 25% said they had sent an image or video of themselves to someone else
Young people see “sexting” as a harmless activity but there are obvious risks:
- You have no control over the images once they are sent and who can access them
- You are vulnerable to blackmail, bullying and harm
- It is also illegal – by sending an explicit image a young person is producing and distributing child abuse images and risks being prosecuted, even if the picture is taken and shared with their permission.
So what can you do as a parent to protect your child online?
- Make sure you have parental controls on computers and mobile devices. Remember though that parental controls are not a fail safe answer, you still need to know what your child is doing online.
- Keep up to date and talk about what you know with your child.
- Be frank with your child about how they explore issues related to health, wellbeing, body image and sexuality of themselves and others online.
- Be willing to talk openly with your children about what they post online and help them to know the dangers of sexting and inappropriate use of webcams.
- Above all, let them know it is OK to come to you or another trusted adult if they feel threatened or uncomfortable about something they have seen or done on a social networking site.
Here are some questions you might ask your children:
- Do you really know everybody on your friends list?
- Do you ever get messages from strangers? How do you handle it?
- Do you ever get asked to meet someone offline that you have only ever spoken to online?
- Has anyone online been mean or nasty to you? Would you tell me about it if they were?
- Has anyone at your school, or anyone else you know, taken naked or sexual photos and sent them to people, or received photos like that?