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Blogs, Forums And Social Networking

Sites that enable children to post photos and details about themselves to share with their friends can be great fun. They can share likes, dislikes, music tastes and hobbies. Equally, being able to share their experiences – sometimes with the safety of anonymity – can be very satisfying. However, it’s vital that the use of these sites by children is closely monitored by parents to ensure they come to no harm

Blogs, and social-networking sites such as Bebo, MySpace, and Facebook are places where children sometimes share too much information – not only names and addresses but also personal photos that sometimes show illegal acts, such as underage drinking. Ask your children to share their blogs or online profiles with you so you can check the content. You can also use Google, along with the search tools on social-networking sites, to search for profiles your child may have posted. Make sure your child’s full name, phone number, and other identifying information is not posted openly.

If your children put up photos and information, make sure they consider what they put up. Adults may look to use this to their advantage. Even at a less criminal level, school friends and neighbours may see it and use it to make fun of or harass the poster. They may even send this on to others.

When using forums, encourage your children to stay on topic and not to be distracted into conversations not related to the issue being discussed. Remember that forums are publicly accessible and your details cannot be restricted as easily as by sites like Bebo, MySpace, and Facebook. Forums are almost always monitored and you should be able to report any concerns regarding threads to a moderator.

Peer to Peer (P2P)

Peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing invites new privacy problems. These programmes allow people to browse and download files from internet-connected personal computers of anyone else who uses the same programme. Children can accidentally download pornography that is labelled misleadingly.

Consider these tips to help:

  • Never reveal personal information. It needs to be drummed into children that they should never give away any real aspects of their identity. This includes information such as name, address, phone number, school, and parents’ work address. If this kind of information is needed to register with a website, parents should get involved.
     
  • Use only moderated chat rooms. Chatting won’t go away, but it can be made safer. Parents should be just as wary of whom their children talk to online as they are in person. Keep children away from private or one-on-one chat rooms, and ask to be introduced to online friends.
     
  • Talk about bad experiences. Children need to understand that they can talk to you if they come across something that makes them feel uncomfortable while online. Discussing issues with an adult they trust will help them to realise that a bad experience is not their fault.
     
  • Spend time with children online. Being online is no different than being outside; you always want to know where your children are and become familiar with the places they visit. Learn about their favorite sites and online friends. Going online is a big part of your children’ lives, and it’s important that you share in that.
     
  • Never meet online friends in person. Online, it’s easy to be someone different. People who seem friendly online may be of questionable character in reality. If a child wants to meet an online friend, make sure that it’s done only under strict adult supervision, and in a public place.
     
  • Be mindful of viruses. Tell children to be extremely careful of emails or files they get from strangers. Besides containing inappropriate material, they could have viruses that lodge inside your PC and leave it vulnerable to attack. It’s almost always better to delete emails of unknown origin and not open them.
     
  • Think twice about sending pictures. Sending family or school pictures to family and friends online is fine… as long as it’s done with a parent’s permission. However, sending pictures to strangers is unacceptable under any circumstances. In the wrong hands, these pictures can be used for a variety of sinister purposes.
     
  • Stop at offensive websites. Tell children that they need to trust their instincts when they come across a website that makes them uncomfortable. After all, even a misspelled URL can take a browser to a foul site. Tell the children it is okay, as long as they get out of that site.
     
  • Never share passwords. Impress upon children that passwords are not to be shared with anyone. In fact, no reputable online service would even ask for it. That’s why, if any site asks for a password, children should tell their parents about it. And the parents might want to tell their Internet Service Provider (ISP).
     
  • Use the Parental Controls feature in McAfee Internet Security Suite for Sky Broadband customers. It helps having leading computer-security software to extend the protection of your children in cyberspace. You can manage how your children communicate online, with settings that filter content, block certain web pages, and initiate time limits. Activity logs help you monitor their activity. You can even protect your family’s personal, private information from being transmitted without your knowledge or permission.

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