Technology may be the way forward, but we still need to protect our children from the more unsavory aspects of the internet, according to experts writing for the popular My Daughter advice website. So Head teachers who write for My Daughter have pooled their experience to come up with a list of tried and tested useful tips to help your daughter enjoy the internet in safety. The advice is just as pertinent for young boys.
Advice for parents
- Try to keep all computers which your daughter uses to access the internet out in the open, where anyone could see what is being written and communicated there rather than tucked away in her bedroom. If your daughter objects, point out that if there is something being said which she feels uncomfortable about sharing, then it is almost certainly questionable, if not necessarily absolutely wrong. Openness is one of the key ways to keep safe
- Set up a family email address that should be used if they want to subscribe to any services online.
- Involve your children in writing your own family code of acceptable internet use. Remember that what’s acceptable for a teenager isn’t necessarily OK for a primary school-aged child, so get their input.
- Tell children not to give out their personal details. In particular, younger girls should be aware this is not just telephone numbers and addresses, but also the name of their school, their intimate thoughts and feelings and, increasingly, pictures of themselves. Once information has been sent out in an email, by mobile phone or posted onto a website, it can be easily copied or forwarded to others and you don’t know where it will end up or who will get it
- Encourage younger girls to memorise and follow the S.M.A.R.T rules at www.kidsmart.org.uk/beingsmart/
- Be brave – limit the time you allow your daughter to spend on the computer.
- Talk to your daughter. Don’t assume everything is bad. Find out more before saying no…
- Always be honest and open with your daughters about potential dangers. You cannot protect them from the reality of risk but you can educate them so that they are able to cope with it. If you are honest and open with them they are more likely to be open and honest with you.
- Understand what your daughter is doing online. Get to know the internet, set up your own social networking account, so you have an idea about the perks and the pitfalls. If you aren’t confident with computers, go on a course. Then you can have a more informed discussion with your daughter
- Make sure that the security settings on computers are appropriate and use your browser’s controls as some offer differing degrees of security for each family member.
- Invest in good internet filtering software. There are various parental controls on the market to restrict content, website addresses and even the time of day that the internet is accessible. Have a look at www.getnetwise.org for advice on what is available.
- The minimum age to have a Facebook account is 13. If someone younger than this has one, they have provided incorrect information on the sign up form. Facebook has the power to remove such accounts, but do not rely on this to happen in all cases.
- Use Facebook yourself. Become your child’s Facebook friend. If they won’t accept you as a friend, encourage them to accept a different relative or close family friend. This helps everyone keep in touch and people always think twice if they know that Granny can see what they are posting!
- Cyberbullying – do not delete messages, save or print to have as evidence that cyber -bullying is taking place
- Schools will want to deal with any bullying under their Anti-bullying Policy, even if it takes place away from the school’s site. Ideally print out what is being said and give it to the appropriate member of staff.
- Report abuse: If you suspect an adult is trying to contact your child on the internet you can report it through the The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP).
Advice for girls
- The internet is a public place not a private space. Remember not to post anything online that you would not want the world to know or see.
- Don’t write anything in MSN, email or social networking sites that you wouldn’t be happy to say face to face.
- Keep your password safe. Treat it like your toothbrush – never share it.
- Use a nickname online (not your real name) and a nickname that is not going to attract the wrong type of attention!
- Always have a good look at the privacy settings of any spaces you post personal information on and make sure you know who can see or copy your stuff!
- Get your friends and family to have a look at your spaces to check that you aren’t giving out too much personal information or posting inappropriate photos/films because they might see something you’ve missed.
- Look out for your friends online and do something if you think they are at risk.
- Treat your online space with respect – only allow your real life friends to link to you…if you haven’t met them in real life don’t link to them.
- Beware: people might not be who they say they are, and their photos may not be real.
- If you are uncomfortable, upset or threatened by something you have seen or heard via the internet – remember it’s never too late to tell someone.