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Online Security, Tech News, Tips & How-to's 1st March 2010 1533

Steve Lane, PC PAL franchisee for Leicester South and Market Harborough writes:

It seems that the generation gap these days is also a technology gap.  Children these days are often referred to as the “Facebook Generation”.  Many parents are not familiar with the technology that children use as part of their daily life.  So as an Internet parent these days what should you do?
The Internet has become part of the fabric of life and society and never more so than for children.  It is fantastic resource for education but it carries risks. As parents we need to be able to educate our children and give them the tools to use the Internet safely.  We can’t do that unless we understand the technology and the risks.  CEOP surveyed 6000 11 – 16 year olds and found that 55% had access the internet everyday with 33% having access in their bedrooms.  Most worrying, 25% had met someone in the flesh that they had initially met online and one quarter of these did not take anyone with them.
The Internet is used by paedophiles on the Internet along with fraudsters.  Sitting at the computer it is easy to be sucked in and believe that someone is not who they actually are. For children the home used to be a safe haven from bullying.  Now with mobile technology and the Internet bullying does not end at the school gate.  Adult material is prolific on the Internet and easily obtained even sometimes from very benign searches.  Obtaining a virus can put identity and privacy at risk where someone could even spy on your child by turning on their webcam.  Mobile technology is advancing a blistering pace and means that social networking and chat rooms are available anywhere and at any time.  It is hard to keep up!

The first step in protecting children is to talk to them and increase your own knowledge.  Get your children to show you the technology they use and take the time to understand it.  Increase your own knowledge by spending an hour on http://www.getsafeonline.org and watch the CEOP video. (embed or link youtube video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qWiZbFAmL6Y&feature=channel). Have a look at the parental resources on http://www.thinkuknow.co.uk.

Pay particular attention to the personal information your children are sharing online and learn how to set privacy settings.  Personal information should be restricted to just their real friends and never given out to online friends.  Help you children understand that personal information such as online chat IDs, mobile phone numbers and pictures of themselves should not be shared.  If they publish a video or an image it is possible to change it, download it or republish it.  What is published on the Internet tends to stay on the Internet and will be there in the future for future employers to look at. Facebook has very granular privacy settings and these should be used as the default settings are just too open.  Children should be trained to be suspicious and to not assume that someone claiming to be a friend is actually who they are.  It is easy to impersonate someone in a chat room or on a social networking site.

You should get your children to agree to talk to you if they are concerned.  Online friends should stay just online and they should not to meet anyone from the Internet without being accompanied by an adult they trust. Openness is the key to parental policing and you should get your child to share their passwords with you and not set a password that you do not know about.  It is natural as a teenager for your children to start to want some privacy.  However, turning off screens when you enter the room or closing something down such as a chat application should be challenged.  Keeping conversations about online activity regular and talking about the issues is the key to ensuring safety.

Spam / junk email and texts are full of risk and it is worth reminding your children not to believe them.  In addition these emails could contain an attachment.  These attachments could contain a virus, pornographic images or worse such as an inappropriate film.  Spam email can also contain links that appear to be to legitimate websites but are in fact not. These fake websites are designed to steal personal information such as passwords.  Children should be trained to not click on these and to remain suspicious.  If they are concerned they should ask an adult they trust before clicking or opening anything.
If a child is being bullied online or through text messages they should not respond to the bully. Responding to the bully is likely to encourage them to carry on. They should save all of the messages and bring them to the attention of a parent or possibly a teacher.  Information about cyberbulling is published in a facebook group ( link: http://www.facebook.com/EndCyberbullying).  Childline (link to:http://www.childline.org.uk/Explore/OnlineSafety/Pages/CyberBullying.aspx) is also a useful resource to help your children find out  how to deal with cyberbulling.

Software can help and you should make use of the parental control in Windows Vista and Windows 7.  Using the parental controls in Windows allows you to prevent children from running certain applications or from playing certain games.  You can also set time limits on use.  You can take this further by using an application such as Bluecoat K9 Web Protection (http://www1.k9webprotection.com/) which is free or Content Watch Net Nanny 6.0 (around £24).  Both of these applications are comprehensive with Net Nanny having the greater features.  On mobiles you could contact the network provider and ensure that adult content filtering is switched on.

As a parent you could agree some ground rules around computers and mobile technology.  I suggest that these should include:
1.       when and for how long your children can access the Internet
2.       what sites are acceptable and which types of materials are not acceptable – remember downloading or sharing some materials is illegal such as sharing music files or films
3.       where the Internet may be accessed such as not permitting your child to disappear into the bedroom with laptop – computers should generally be in the heart of the house where behaviour can be observed
4.       make it clear that personal information must not be given out and agree what constitutes personal information such as mobile numbers, date of birth, photographs and so forth
5.       an agreement that they will come to you if they are unsure, uncomfortable or threatened
6.       forbid them from meeting anyone that they initially met online without you accompanying them
7.       Agree what chat rooms and what chat sites ar
e permitted
8.       agree that passwords will always be shared with you and that you will not be locked out
Significant resources are available for your children to learn about the risks.  There are some great resources at http://www.thinkuknow.co.uk for all ages.  There are also videos that you could watch with your child at www.youtube.com/ceop.  Encourage your children to visit these websites with you and use these as opportunities to talk about online activity.

Using these tips and talking about the Internet means that the Internet can be used safely and as a wonderful resource for learning about the world that we live in. The Internet is not to be feared but to be embraced.  It must also be treated with the same approach that we treat the rest of the world which is with a healthy dose of suspicion and scepticism. I hope that reading the article and taking some action will help you and your family use the Internet safely.

Steve Lane (PC
PAL, South Leicester & Market Harborough)


PC PAL is the UK's award winning Computer, Laptop, Mac & Smartphone support specialists, with experienced, qualified & local Computer Engineers based in your area. We are a name that local people have come to recognise and trust.

Please take a moment to read our feedback from our loyal customers, or find your local PC PAL Engineer.

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