“Had I only known what she was up to, I might have prevented this “. These were the words of a father who lost his 17 year old daughter to a highly debated “internet suicide cult” in Bridgend, Wales. She hanged herself upstairs in her room while her father was watching TV downstairs.
This is the grim reality of the world where our children are growing up today. With instant access to the internet their worlds have expanded to literally the ends of the earth, ironically confined to a small device such as a cell phone or a computer.
With the end of 2012 being at hand, most children are expected to withdraw to their bedrooms or study areas in preparation of the final exams. For some parents it is a relief that their children are now spending more time at home, focusing on the exams, but where this has traditionally been viewed as “good behaviour”, the internet poses new potential dangers to our children.
While studying, it is common practise to “take a break”, normally by getting in touch with the outside world via the electronic communication systems available. And right here your child has an opportunity to be derailed from their studies by being exposed to all sorts of obscurities within the cyber world. This can include exposure to pornography, undesirable sites or cyber bullying – where your child, is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, or otherwise targeted by another child. Also by visiting certain chatrooms, social sites or live webcam groups, your child could expose themselves as a possible target for online Sexual Predators who see the process of finding and tracking down a child as a game and a hunt. They use methods such as Online Grooming (when Predators develop relationships by offering whatever a child seems to need, emotionally or literally luring them with gifts) or Online Mirroring (when predators are skilled in playing back emotionally what they see in the child) to try and gain access to the child. There is also Online Phishing ( when a scammer tries to trick you into giving or revealing your personal information”), etc
It can be disheartening when we are confronted by all the potential dangers that our children are exposed to, but there is hope.
Parents can play an integral part in protecting their children by being involved and focusing on the following:
- Educate yourself regarding the dangers of the internet. (visit www.netparent.co.za )
- Investigate new protection software on the internet.
- Do not underestimate your child’s technical abilities.
- Ask your teen to help you adjust your PC privacy settings. This will give you a good sense of how ‘savvy’ they are.
- Engage in dialogue with your child regarding online activities that are important to them. This might not be your field of interest, but this attitude will hopefully lead to an open communication channel.
- Educate your kids concerning online shopping and regularly monitor billing statements.
- Computers should be confined to common areas.
- Don’t befriend their friends – although befriending their parents is quite acceptable.
- Reassure your child that they can always share their concerns with you, especially cyber bullying!
For your Child:
- They should never give out personal information.
- They should never post a picture of themselves that could ever lead to embarrassment.
- Never post slanderous statements or incriminating comments.
- They should not download pictures, click on e-mail attachments or visit unsolicited web links from an unknown source.
- They should never respond to messages or bulletin board postings that are suggestive, obscene, belligerent, or harassing.
- They must be skeptical as to the truth of what’s said online.
- Avoid face-to-face meetings with individuals they’ve met online without supervision from a chaperone.
- They should only accept a friend or follow requests from individuals they have met in person.
Parents can also protect their children by installing software on their computers, such as NetParent, that will notify them should the child come into contact with predetermined unwanted content.
You will receive an immediate E-Mail or SMS warning the moment preselected content is triggered by Netparent, when your child is busy exploring the internet or typing trigger words on the home PC. Now you can also remotely block and unblock the pc screen via sms.
As the saying goes: prevention is better than cure. Be an involved parent during this coming exam season and by doing so ensure a safer and better future for your child.
Article supplied by www.netparent.co.za South Africa