Guidance for Parents
Hints and Tips for at home
Children spend lots of time using the Internet at school, at friends' houses, on a mobile phone, via a games console or at home. They might visit social networking sites (including Bebo, Myspace, Facebook and Piczo), or use instant messaging (such as MSN or Yahoo messenger) to chat to friends or play on online gaming sites (Club Penguin, Runescape, mini-clip etc). These are often blocked on school computers but are very popular with children.
You can buy special filtering and blocking software to protect your children, and most Internet browser software has some filters and security in place. Filtering software lets parents choose what is suitable for their children to look at, but parents must be aware that this software is not always 100% effective.
If you keep your PC 'anti-virus' security up to date you should not have problems with most threats from the Internet or from downloaded email attachments. The popular browsers such as Microsoft Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox also let you control or block things such as unwanted pop-up advertisements and "cookies" e.g. when a website downloads a small file to your PC to remember your name/login.
Always take care to protect your home computer and members of the family who use it.
- Don't panic! Talk to your child and ask them to show you (or even teach you) how they use the internet and the computer, learn which websites or tools they like to use and why. Learning together can often open opportunities to discuss safe practise with your child.
- Make sure you know what your children are doing online much like you would in "real" life such as what sites they visit and who they talk to? Ensure they know not to share personal information that could identify them in the offline world with anyone online.
- Have family rules about how the Internet/mobile phones etc will be used at home and be clear about not sharing information online such as names, schools, phone numbers, email addresses, photos of themselves, with online friends. Have clear rules about making and meeting with online friends safely (such as taking someone with them, meeting in a public place etc).
- Talk to your child about the risks of downloading files from unknown or potentially illegal (such as peer to peer/file sharing sites like Limewire etc) sources or copying information from sites.
- Use child or family friendly search engine (such as the CBBC Safe Search) with younger children and bookmark favourite sites for your children to use.
- Wherever possible, locate your computer in a family area and supervise younger children. Always supervise the use of webcams in your home and consider applications which allow voice chat such as Skype.
- Filter unsuitable sites so that they cannot be seen or used by your children. This doesn't have to cost a lot. Many Internet Service Providers (like AOL or BT) will include filtering and some level of internet security free. You might want to check with them what is already available before buying extra security software. Most specialist PC stores can also advise you.
- Be aware that some devices, such as Mobile Phones, Games Consoles etc are also able to access the internet and bypass filtering. Consider putting parental controls in place (either by contacting your mobile phone provider or from the console/device's settings directly) to restrict content and access.
- Always ensure your child knows how to block or report another user who may be sending nasty or inappropriate messages or content. Make sure you child knows to tell an adult they trust if they see something online that makes them feel scared, worried or uncomfortable. If your child receives any abusive messages etc keep them for evidence purposes to show to the school or police. Encourage your child not to retaliate or reply. You can also report problems directly to service providers and websites.
- Work with your child's school, they may have spoken to your child about online safety but you can help by repeating the message at home. All schools should have an e-Safety Policy and an e-Safety Coordinator who will be able to advise you where to go for more support.
- Be realistic - banning the internet will not work - children use computers and games consoles at friends' houses and at school so education around its safe use is essential. Educate your children and the whole family will benefit from using the internet.