Dangers to children on-line
Many (most?) parents today are struggling to keep up with the advances in the use of computers and the internet; and in the main, children are much more techno-savvy than those of us who are responsible for their care and well-being.
Whilst the modern mechanisms and technologies for social interaction can be used for good and legitimate purposes; there are growing dangers facing children (and adults).
The risks have become much greater since the relatively -recent advent of internet facilities for 'social networking' which much increase the ability to access and interact with other persons across the globe, and to share information at whatever level the individual wishes in a form that is readily accessible to others.
Whilst it is a challenge for parents to 'keep up to speed' with all of this, it is also becoming increasingly important that they do.
Users of the Christians Together web site are invited to send in information and/or links which they have found beneficial in respect of the above.
Meanwhile, here are a few 'to get started' as part of a -
Lexicon of on-line terminology -
Blogs: The term is an abbreviation of 'web log' and is essentially an on-line personal diary. It can be (and is) used by anyone from an (otherwise unknown) young person anywhere to well-respected journalists, commentators and high-profile celebrities. A blog can contain pictures and links to other sources of information on the internet.
(Cyber)bullying / sexual predators: Both of these actitivies have been on the increase; and the use of web-cams can be very dangerous.
Ebay: an electronic 'on-line' auction facility for buying and selling. Whilst this is a highly useful facility, there is also the risk of fraud, addiction and reckless spending.
E-mail: One-to-one or one-to-many (typed) electronic messages (letters, notes, pictures) send over the internet. Unfortunately, private conversations can also be used for -
Grooming: A one-to-one relationship is developed with the innocent party being tricked into thinking that they are communicating with (for instance) peer when in fact the person at the other end has developed a careful-constructed but false persona e.g. a man might act the part of a teenage boy (or girl) in order to build up a relationship with a young (or teenage) girl. Young boys are also vulnerable to on-line predators.
Identity theft: All of the above carry risks of exposing the individual to the fraudulent and/or improper use of personal information by a third party for financial theft through impersonating the victim.
Instant Messaging: Chat facilities for 'talking' (one-to-one or one-to-many) in real time (i.e. participants are on-line all at the same time and exchanging typed messages in 'chat' form). These can be proprietary systems like Microsoft or Yahoo Messenger. This can also involve the use of web-cams which allow pictures or video images to be exchanged e.g. participants can see each other on screen.
On-line gaming and gambling: Some (many) computer games rely on users developing 'alter-egos' (on-line personas) and many of the games have violent and/or occultic themes. There is also the risk of addiction developing in these activities.
Social networking sites: The facility to put personal details on-line in a form that these can be accessed by others. Typically of these are - Facebook, My Space and Bebo.
Web browsing: The facility to access pages of information on the world wide web (which itself runs over the international internet network of computers). Amongst the great benefits of this 'international encyclopedia', there is an ocean of highly suspect and unhealthy material out there. [A web browser is the software programme used on computers to access the worldwide web - typically Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox.]
YouTube (and similar sites): YouTube is one of the growing number of sites which carry (mainly) short videos which can be uploaded by anyone who registers with the site. In the main there is a <10min length although there are arrangements for longer videos.
Although their is a facility to 'report' inappropriate material, the volume being submitted makes adequate policing very difficult.
There are lots of amusing, informative and interesting videos; but of course not all are in that category.
1. Don't ban your children from using the Internet: it is an extremely useful tool and an important means by which children now communicate with their friends and the world around them. Overly restricting access, might only increase their desire to use it, and they could attempt to get online behind your back.
2. Use parental controls: these block inappropriate and/or dangerous websites. However, these controls are not perfect so try and keep an eye on Web sites which your children are accessing. (Use the 'history' facility on web browser software.)
3. Do some research and perhaps take evening classes to understand how computer and Internet technology works. The more you know, the better equipped you'll be to protect your kids.
4. Put your computer in a common area of your house where privacy won't be expected.
5. Talk to the parents of your children's friends. Most of them likely have computers, too.
6. Explain to your children that the Internet is not private and they shouldn't post anything about themselves that they wouldn't want others (whom they might not know) to know about.
7. Also let your children know that they also shouldn't post any private information about their friends.
8. Tell your children to let you know immediately if anyone has approached them or sent them inappropriate content.
9. If your child minimizes (clicks 'off-screen') the browser (web) window whenever you come in or receives phone calls from people you don't know, those are potential red flags. Be aware of them!
10. If you suspect that something is wrong, seek advice from reliable and informed sources.
11. Have a look at online help e.g. Microsoft's 'Protect your family' page.
Footnote: This page should be considered a 'work in progress' - and will be updated as and when new information (or threats) appear. Please feel free to be in touch with suggestions/ammendments/links etc. by e-mail or by leaving a comment below.
Christians Together, 01/08/2008