School holiday Internet safety from The Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre
Top tips and information for parents during the school holidays.
Q. How many times do we hear parents ask the question ‘how can we keep the children entertained during the school holidays?’
Well, the Internet offers a lot of entertainment for young people. Gaming, sharing pictures and keeping in touch with mates cover just some of the fun - and all from the safety of their own home.
But how safe are they? And what can you as parents do to ensure they are not engaging in risky behavior that may inadvertently put them at risk?
Here are some top tips on Internet safety that can help your child safety enjoy using the Internet during the school holidays and to give you some peace of mind too.
Bebo, MySpace, and Facebook – these are just some of the favorite social networking sites that young people visit. With membership growing all the time, these sites are evolving too. Sites that previously had personal profiles have now expanded to include many different and fun applications and communications. For example many sites have their own form of instant messaging (IM) applications- now providing real time conversations between users. This is also a tool used by child sex offenders to use to meet young people.
Talk to your children about the risks of talking to people they do not know in the real world and the issues with posting personal details online such as home address, telephone numbers or what school they go to. The smallest piece of information given out may allow a stranger to trace them. Photos and videos can be shared amongst friends online and may also be seen by others and once online may be there forever. It’s important to ensure that these videos and photos are appropriate to be put online.
Ask your child to ensure the privacy settings on their online profile are set correctly. They should be private which means that they can manage their profile allowing only people they know in the real world to see their site. If a site is public anyone anywhere can view the profile and see all the information posted- photos, comments from and email addresses for friends. All social networking sites have privacy settings so your children have no excuse not to set them to private.
Instant Messaging (IM)
IM is one of the most popular things for young people to do online. Unfortunately, it is in these private chat environments where grooming can take place.
Encourage your child to IM with people they know in the real world. If someone they do not know tries to contact them online they should block them or delete them as a contact. This can be done within the application and is easy to do.
Talk to your child about who they are adding to the buddy lists. Lots of young people compete with their friends to see who can have the most ‘friends’ in their buddy list so they will add people they don’t know in the real world. This can be risky as the ‘stranger’ who has been added will then be able to contact everyone else on the list.
Online chat facilities are ultimately public spaces and unfortunately paedophiles will use these online spaces as a tool to meet young people. They will engage in a conversation starting in a public chat area and that conversation will then move to a more intimate area, most commonly IM, where more private conversations can take place. The individuals involved would only see these private conversations.
Advise your child that, if they are using chat rooms, to chat to people in public areas of the site. These areas are often moderated and any suspicious chat can be picked up. They should avoid moving into private chat in IM and if they are concerned about someone’s behavior, report this immediately via www.ceop.gov.uk
Talk to your child about what personal information is and that there is no need for strangers to know lots of things about them. One of the biggest risks to young people when chatting online is giving out too much personal information about themselves. It is tempting to say and do things in an online environment that they wouldn’t do in the real world.
Mobile Phones and Wireless Technology
Children and young people are now able to access websites, social networking sites and IM applications via mobile phones and games consoles such as Xbox, PlayStations, handheld Nintendo DS’s and PSP’s.
Make your child aware that of the implications of posting inappropriate content on the Internet or sending it to others via a mobile phone. Malicious communication is a criminal offence under the Telecommunications Act.
Be aware that, with mobile phones and handheld games consoles now providing a connection to the Internet, young people can access the Internet from many different locations where you can’t restrict access or supervise. Even if the family computer is in a family room, this is no longer a way of managing what your children are doing online, especially if you have wireless broadband connectivity in your house.
Children and young people are using webcams more and more to communicate with friends and family. Unfortunately child sex offenders also use webcams to engage with young people as part of the grooming process. They will gain self generated material of young people for their own sexual purposes and may also use these images to blackmail a child into meeting up in the real world.
Encourage your child to webcam only with people that they know in the real world Even if they have been talking to someone they don’t know who has become an online friend they need to remember that ultimately they are still strangers.
Keep the family webcam in with the computer in a family room so as a parent you can see how it is being used. Young people are less likely to engage in inappropriate behavior if they know their parents are in the same room.
Online gaming has become a great pastime for children and young people and its popularity continues to grow at a rate that is growing with technological advances. The opportunities are endless. However following a recent report by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, there are calls for more to be done by industry to ensure that young people are further protected when playing games online.
Ensure your child is using a nickname rather than their real name when gaming online. Child sex offenders will use gaming sites to pose as young people themselves to engage with children, so if the children are using nicknames and not giving out personal information, they are reducing any risk they may face.
Know what games they are playing and reassure yourself that your child understands the games they are playing are just that - games. It is easy for young people to get taken in by what they are playing and the people they are playing with and some young people can spend hours at a time in front of their games console. One recommendation we would give is to arrange an understanding that there are time limits with regards to how long young people play the games for each day.
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What is CEOP again?
The Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre is dedicated to eradicating the sexual abuse of children. That means they are part of UK policing and very much about tracking and bringing offenders to account either directly or in partnership with local and international forces. The States of Jersey Police and Prison! Me! No Way!!! Jersey support CEOP.
Find out more about CEOP’s work at http://www.ceop.gov.uk/