Parents should be Internet savvy

Most parents, at some time or
other, will struggle to keep up with the plethora of technological advances
that seem like second nature to their children.

Be proactive to bridge the digital divide
by taking an active interest in how such technologies work.

According to Tony Cleaver, managing
director of Alphasoft Ltd., parents need to talk in age-appropriate language to
their children to make them aware of the potential dangers of cyber space.

Parents also need to read the
equipment’s user manual or visit the manufacturers’ websites to find out which
controls they need to access before setting the rules.

When making up rules for Internet
use, involve your child. Including a child in the decision-making process, by
advising them will help them appreciate the dangers and make them play their
part in safeguarding their Internet safety.

For young children

-For children younger
than 11, make sure you have parental controls enabled
on your home computers, which will automatically restrict access to
inappropriate materials.

-Draw up a list of approved
sites and update the list when necessary.

-Ensure that the computer
they use is in a public area in the house.

-In most cases, children younger than 12 do not need a mobile phone.
If parents choose to provide young children with cell phones, they have to
accept the risks as there is no way to filter or control texting and messaging
from such devices.

-Install a parental control software programme such as CyberPatrol.

-It is the parents’ responsibility
to make sure that they are not providing the means for Internet abuse. Giving
very young children mobile phones and Internet-ready computers, or other
devices without restrictions, is unwise.

Parental controls

Digital devices like games
consoles, mobile phones and computers have parental controls. These allow
parents or caregivers to do the following:

-Set time limits for
Internet use. Young children normally don’t have an
adequate concept of time. Restrict their Internet access to no longer than 20
minutes to half an hour.

-Block inappropriate
email addresses and websites by including them to your filter list

-Block your child from
searching certain key words.

Appropriate Internet use

Proper Internet use includes:

-Locating home computers
away from their bedrooms, in a communal room with the screen facing outward so
you can monitor what they are doing.

-Telling your child
they shouldn’t download unknown files from the Internet
without your permission.  When in doubt
tell them to avoid downloads.

-Advising your child to
tell you if he/she accidentally goes to an unsuitable website, so you can
delete it from the history folder and add the address to your parental control filter list.

-Telling children that
it is wrong to use vulgar or threatening language in online communication.

Child-safe search engines

It is always advisable to make sure
that your child knows a few child-friendly search engines. These filter out
inappropriate Internet sites and give parents peace of mind that their child’s
Internet searches are safe. Your child can also use traditional search engines
with safe search settings turned on.

Older children

Bullying doesn’t just happen in
schools. Cyber bullying, via cell phone and computers, can be harder to detect
and therefore stop than physical bullying. Knowing the dangers of this type of
mental abuse will help parents and children combat cyber bullying.

Cyber bullying can range from
one-to-one messages sent and posted online, on the Internet and emails, to
messages sent to groups of people.

As with traditional bullying, it’s
important for you to listen to your child and be sympathetic. Letting your
child know what constitutes bullying is important, so that they can identify
when it happens to them and prevent them from becoming a bully.

It is also advisable to get
children to limit the amount of time they spend in chat rooms and the amount of
personal information that they divulge, such as their email address, physical
address, what school they attend and their phone number.

Chat room bullying should be
documented and reported to the appropriate authorities (the Internet service
provider, school or website manager).

If this type of abuse continues get
your child to change their email address and cell number. Parents should also
activate in-built Internet safety devices and install computer software to
block inappropriate emails and images.