A Guide to the Internet for Parents/Carers
We have taken much of this information from the Thinkuknow website. It is an excellent site and we would recommend that you visit and view the video clips to accompany this information and much more. We would advise that you refer to our Anti-Bullying and Behaviour and Discipline policies for potential consequences and sanctions for cyber-bullying and other forms of malicious communication and misuse of the Internet in school.
What is my child doing online?
Your child will be using services online to create a network of ‘friends’. Social networking sites, like Facebook, encourage and enable your child to link with their friends so they can chat, keep up to date, share photos and videos... and their opinions of them!
Almost every site online now has a social element. Whether it is finding out what music your friends are buying, to reading their reviews of the latest films or games, increasingly we see the Internet through the eyes of our friends.
To young people, their idea of an online ‘friend’ may be different to an offline ‘friend’. Friends online might be your best mate, your entire school, friends of friends, people you meet gaming, or even just someone with a funny profile. Therefore, online ‘friends’ are likely to be a much larger group than friends in the real world.
Making someone your ‘friend’ gives them access to things you share – that could be; what you like, who you like and even where you live...Therefore, the larger the group of friends, the more people can see things about you. As you might expect, this can be risky.
Here are four things you should discuss with your child to help them protect themselves when socialising online:
- Know who your friends are. Because ‘friends’ have access to their personal information and can chat to them, your children should only be friends with people that they trust. Talk to your child about who their ‘friends’ are, encourage them to think about where and when they ‘met’ people and whether it is appropriate to share information with them.
- Manage the information you share with them. On most sites, children can control the amount of information they share with different groups of friends. For example, you might share some holiday snaps just with your family, or create a private invitation to a party. Your child should only share personal information, like their telephone number or school, with people they know and trust in the real world.
- Never meet up with someone you only know online. People might not always be who they say they are. Make sure your child understands that they should never meet up with anyone they only know online without taking a trusted adult with them.
- Know what to do if someone upsets you. Sometimes ‘friends’ can do things that are upsetting and it’s important that you and your child are aware of what you can do to block or report this.
My child is under 13, should they have a Facebook account?
To comply with different legislation, Facebook and many other social networking sites, require users to be 13 and over in order to set up an account.
However, we do know that increasing numbers of children are registering on sites like Facebook, by claiming to be older than they are.
Sites like Facebook enable children to share an incredible amount of information about themselves, have conversations with their friends and also potentially provide contact with people they don’t know. With this in mind, you should take the age restriction as seriously as you would an age restriction for the cinema.
We understand however that it can be difficult to stop a child from registering to sites like this and that you can be concerned that they might set it up behind your back. We believe you should be involved in your child’s life online, and it is better that they use a site safely with your involvement, than hide their behaviour from you.
If your child is setting up a Facebook account, consider the following:
- Help them set up their account – make sure that they don’t put any unnecessary personal information.
- Don’t make them any older than 13. Facebook have separate security settings in place for younger users
- Use your email address as the main contact – this way you can see the people who are ‘friending’, messaging and commenting on your child’s profile.
- Talk through the privacy settings – go through the settings step-by-step.
- Set privacy settings to ‘friends only’ and ensure that the friends they have are ones they know and trust in the real world.
- Limit the amount of adult ‘friends’ they have – these could be friends of yours or family members. These users may post content which you would not want your child to see!
- Talk to them about some of the things that can go wrong such as bullying, unwanted contact and inappropriate content.
- Ask them to talk to you about anything that makes them feel unhappy.
- Learn how to report any issues directly to the site.
If your child is already an underage user, revisit their profile with them and ensure that these steps have been implemented; it is never too late to take control.
The Internet has changed the way that young people play games. Games can be played against anyone in the world, at any time and for as long as you want.
In the past, computer games were something you played against the computer or friends that came round to your house. They were also something that you ‘completed’ and then moved onto the next one.
Online, you can adventure in complex worlds, create characters, and meet and make friends to fight battles and go on journeys together...
Almost anything that connects to the Internet will allow you to play these games – desktop computers, laptops, consoles, like Playstation or Xbox, or even mobile phones.
Gaming is great fun, but just as with anything online, there are risks you should help your child navigate. It’s important that you’re involved in your child’s experiences, even if it feels like a different world!
Talking to People
Young people use the Internet to talk to others in a number of different ways: emailing, instant messaging, webcam and chat rooms. The online world provides young people with the opportunity to be inquisitive, explore relationships and actively seek risks, such as flirting with people that they don’t know.
Chatting online feels different to chatting face-to-face. It can be easier to say and reveal things that you wouldn’t in the real world, and be mean, aggressive or flirtatious.
It is important for young people to remember that there are offline consequences to online behaviours.
As a parent or carer, you need to understand the ways young people communicate with others, and the potential risks.
Until you feel your child is responsible and mature enough to understand and manage the risks of communicating with people they do not know, then you should restrict the sites they use and people they talk to. Young people should be aware that they can:
- Block contacts. Most chat sites enable you to block contacts to prevent them from communicating with you.
- Report contacts. If someone is being inappropriate on chat sites, you can often report this directly to the site administrator. However, if your child has experienced sexual or offensive chat that has made them feel uncomfortable or someone is trying to meet up with them, you can report this directly to CEOP.
What is Instant Messaging?
Instant messaging (IM) is instant text chat between two or more people. This tends to be private unmoderated chat. You can build a list of ‘friends’ or ‘buddies’ that you can chat to, they can see when you are online and start conversations with you. It is important for young people to know how to manage this list, for example, blocking contacts they don’t want to talk to.
Windows Live Messenger is a popular IM service; however, many sites, including Facebook, provide instant messaging.
What is SPIM?
SPIM is unsolicited messages that are sent through instant messaging sites. These could be adverts, scams, viruses or ways to gather your personal information for the purpose of fraud. Often these appear to be real people requesting to chat.
Your child should not click on messages and links from people that they do not know on their instant messaging accounts as they may risk their computer’s security.
What is webcam chat?
Webcams let you see the person you’re talking to while you’re chatting. Services like Skype are very popular and free. This can be a great way for young people to chat to each other; however, it is important to remember that what appears on webcam can be recorded and shared with other people in ways that you wouldn’t want. Young people should be aware that it is never a good idea to reveal too much of themselves on webcam; this includes engaging in sexual behaviour.
What are chatrooms?
A chat room is a forum where groups of people meet to chat online – this can sometimes be about a particular topic, or can be friends meeting to discuss something. Sometimes chat rooms are moderated; this means that someone, or a computer program, is looking out for inappropriate language or behaviour. Some chat rooms, even those aimed at young people, do contain a lot of sexual chat and online flirting. It is important for young people not to engage in sexual chat with people they do not know, or reveal too much about themselves.
What is random chat?
These sites connect individuals at random with strangers to enable them to chat, either by text or webcam. The random element of connecting you with someone anywhere in the world is the main appeal of these sites.
This type of site is often unmoderated and frequently used for chat and actions of a highly sexual and inappropriate nature which can be harmful to young people.
We would recommend restricting access to any site which randomly connects users to strangers.
Most sites your child uses will encourage them to share information about themselves with others. This might be:
- Opinions – such as what they like and don’t like
- What they are doing
- Pictures and videos of themselves
- Information about themselves – such as their name and where they live
- Videos and music
- The Internet is a great tool for sharing information like this and young people love to keep up-to-date with what their friends are doing. However, it is important that they think before they share as there can be risks with sharing personal information.
Once you share information online, you lose control of it. It is important for young people to be aware of the implications of sharing different types of information.
Pictures and videos
It couldn’t be easier to share pictures and videos online. With cameras on every mobile phone, a picture can be posted and shared in an instant. When you can share at the click of a button, there is no time to think whether it is the right thing to do. It’s easy to make mistakes. Tell your child not to share anything online that they would be embarrassed to show you.
Young people might be tempted to share pictures of a sexual nature of themselves – this might be with people they trust, like a boyfriend or girlfriend; however, this can easily get out of hand. Watch the Thinkuknow film ‘Exposed’ to find out about some of the consequences and why your child should think before they share.
The more information you share about yourself, the easier it is for a stranger to build a picture about you. You should discuss what information your child actually needs to share.
If your child is using social networks, like Facebook, make sure you go through the privacy settings with them so they can control what they share, and with whom.
Watch the Thinkuknow film ‘Consequences’ to find out some of the risks of sharing too much personal information.
Social networking sites increasingly allow you to share your exact location with your friends through your mobile phone. Services like ‘Facebook Places’ allow you to ‘tag’ yourself – which pinpoints you on a map and tells your friends where you are.
There are obvious risks with young people sharing this type of information. We recommend that people under 18 turn off this function on any social networks or services that they use.
Searching for content
With a world of information at their fingertips, it’s easy for young people to actively search for material that might be inappropriate for their age, or stumble across things that might upset or disturb them.
The Internet can provide young people with unrestricted access to adult material. At an age where they are developing socially and sexually, it is natural for young people to be inquisitive. The Internet can support natural exploration of sex, relationships and identity; however, there is the risk of exposure to material that could be detrimental to their development.
One of the ways to help manage what your child is exposed to online is the use of parental controls. These are a good tool available to you; however, they are not a substitute for talking to your child about what they see online.
It is likely that in adolescence your child will be curious about sex. They may well seek to explore this by looking at pornography. Pornography is big business online. It is quick to find, often free and has no age restrictions.
Pornography has always played a part in adolescent sexual development; however, the Internet has significantly changed the type of content that young people are accessing. There is no top shelf on the Internet and at the point at which young people are developing sexually, they can be exposed to material of an extreme nature – such as degrading, violent and dominating behaviours. This can result in: negative attitudes towards women, dysfunctional sexual attitudes and behaviours and unrealistic expectations of sexual relationships.
Difficult though it may be, you should talk to your child about pornography when you talk to them about sex. Emphasise that sex is part of healthy adult relationships, however, within pornography people are playing a role and the depictions of sex are unrealistic and potentially unhealthy.
If you are concerned about your child’s use of pornography you can seek advice from your GP.
The Brook Advisory Service also provides help for under-25’s with a range of sexual issues.
0808 802 1234
You can use the Internet to find out about anything you are interested in and meet people interested in the same things, no matter how niche. Although this provides fantastic opportunities, it can also reinforce vulnerabilities. For example, some young people suffering from eating disorders have used the Internet to promote these conditions to others as a lifestyle choice. Through these networks young people encourage each other to engage in unhealthy behaviours. This can reinforce their opinions about the illness and make it seem normal.
If you are concerned, visit B-eat www.b-eat.co.uk, who provide information for young people, parents and practitioners.
Anyone can create a website, it’s easy and even the most extreme view can find an audience. At a time when young people’s opinions are being formed, exposure to sites which convey extreme viewpoints may influence their views if not counterbalanced with other perspectives.
Encourage your child to talk to you about the things they read or see online. It’s important to help your child understand that, just as national newspapers have their own political perspectives, websites may, and often will, have their own agendas. Just because it is online, it doesn’t mean that it is true.
A lot of online content has been created by people like you and me. Websites like Wikipedia are written entirely by their users and this provides a great online resource. However, it is important for young people to know that not everything they read online is true. It may be a distorted opinion, or simply factually incorrect. 109% of people know this.
Encourage your child to check facts from other sources and also to think critically about sites they use.
Using a mobile phone
Most young people in secondary school own a mobile phone. The devices themselves are becoming ever more powerful and many offer the same functions you might have on a computer. Many mobile phones can now:
Access the Internet – this is no different to accessing the Internet through a computer. Young people can go on any site that you can find online, including sites like Facebook, YouTube and also potentially age inappropriate sites.
Take and share photos and videos – most phones have a fully functioning camera. Young people can take images and videos and these can be shared quickly, easily and for free through text message, email or uploading to the Internet.
Chat with instant messaging, video and text – young people can take part in private chats with people through their mobile phone.
Share your location – through GPS, many phones can now identify their user’s location in real time. This can then be shared on social networking sites and through other sites and applications.
Play games – young people can use their mobile to play games and download new ones, sometimes these can come at a cost.
Add and buy ‘apps’ – apps are programs that you can add to your phone that enable you to do a wide range of things, from playing simple games to finding up-to-date train times. Some of these apps have a cost.
With all of these functions available, talking to people is now only a small part of what mobile phones are used for. It can be difficult to keep tabs of what your child is up to on a mobile phone.
How can I help my child use their mobile phone safely?
Parental settings – some mobile phone service providers allow you to set certain controls over your child’s phone. This can include blocking access to certain sites and monitoring your child’s activities. When buying a mobile, speak to the sales representative to find out more about what services they offer. You can find out more about what controls are available by looking at ‘the Thinkuknow parents and carers' sections online; here are a few to get you started:
Vodafone - http://parents.vodafone.com/mobile
Orange - http://www1.orange.co.uk/safety/
Loopholes – even if you have set controls, your child may be accessing the Internet through other sources. Many phones can access the Internet through Wi-Fi, which could be available on your street and picked up for free. Accessing someone else’s Wi-Fi may mean that your safety settings no longer apply.
Understand what your child’s phone can do – all phones are different and you need to know what they are capable of so you can manage the risks.
Set a PIN code on your child’s phone – setting a PIN code is like a password. Without a password, others may use your child’s phone. This could enable them to access personal information, online accounts or run up expensive bills.
Set boundaries and monitor usage – this doesn’t mean spying on your child! You can set rules with them about where it is used and how long for. For example, if you don’t want your child to use their mobile at night, why not only charge it overnight in the living room?
Discuss what they can share – teach your child to think before they share online and the consequence of doing this over the mobile phone, such as sharing their location.
Discuss and monitor costs – phones can be expensive. As well as bills, costs can be run up through downloading apps, music or leaving data-roaming on abroad. Your child should be made aware of the financial responsibility that comes with owning a phone. There are different ways to manage costs, such having a contract or pay-as-you-go deals; make sure you discuss this in the shop.
Keep their mobile number private – young people need to understand that their phone number should only be given to people they know and trust, make sure that if they are concerned, they ask you first.
Be prepared in case the phone is lost or stolen – know who to contact to get the SIM card blocked. Every phone has a unique ‘IMEI’ number; make sure you write this down so if the phone is stolen, the police can identify the phone if they find it. You can get this by dialling *#06#.
For further information and practical advice on staying safe on-line, we recommend you visit the following websites.
For students & parents/carers:-