With more social networking sites appearing online it has never been more important to stay safe online and know the risks. Social networking sites allow you to create an online persona and interact with friends and other members of the public.
Whilst most social networking sites allow you to protect your profile to just your chosen friends, many people decide to share their profile with anyone and everyone. These very popular sites offer a fantastic opportunity to interact with others in the electronic age but, sadly, a few individuals also use these sites for bullying and intimidation.
CEOP is an excellent site with advice for parents and should be a must read. See below for details.
Internet Matters have also produced these excellent fact sheets on online safety tips for parents of teenagers:
Nothing is more important than knowing what your child is doing online and how they use chat, instant messaging, blogs, forums and social networking sites.
A great idea is to get them to show you how it all works and you shouldn’t be afraid to ask but don’t panic if you’re not quite sure, take a note of what programs and sites they use and do a bit of investigation later on.
Try setting up some rules which you are all agreed on, make sure that your child is happy with how to protect themselves when online and what they should do if they feel at risk.
I want to block these sites!
If you are convinced that there is no alternative, you can install filtering software but be careful, there are often ways around these and your child may feel they have to hide what they are doing from you.
The school has extensive filtering solutions. Home solutions are generally not as advanced but that doesn’t mean they won’t work!
GetNetWise has a list of programs and information on how you can protect your children AND your computer.
Proxy Avoidance Sites
A huge problem for all filtering companies and one that has not been overcome is proxy avoidance sites.
These sites which can be set up very easily allow someone to bypass any filtering that is in place. The website ‘gets’ the banned site and displays it without actually sending you to the site itself. Unfortunately there are dozens of these sites appearing every week and all the filtering providers can only ban them when they are found; there isn’t a way to simply block them all up front.
There’s something nasty on…
If you have come across bullying on a site then you should report it to the site itself. Users of Bebo and MySpace for example, can remove messages themselves and prevent non-friends from leaving messages. Check out the help pages on the site concerned.
If it’s a bit more serious than that, you can report it to CEOP or the police if someone is in immediate danger.
What to do next
CEOP stands for Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre. This site is a member of the Virtual Global Taskforce and affiliated with the Serious Organised Crime Agency. It is an excellent resource for young people and adults with lots of information on how to stay safe, in control and reporting abuse.
We highly recommend you visit this site by following the link below and spend some time reading through the Think U Know and Parents areas.
The Anti-bullying Network provides information for teachers, parents and young people on how to deal with online bullying. There is a comprehensive list of telephone numbers and contact details for various sites. Although this site is primarily for Scotland it is well worth a visit for anyone worldwide!
Please remember to talk to your child about your concerns and support them in staying safe and how to use the Internet wisely!