Hundreds of millions of messages and posts are sent everyday on sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Many are considered offensive but do they amount to a criminal offence?
Advice for Parents
Surfing the internet can be an educational and fun family activity. Here's a few tips for safer use of the internet;
- Check the advice on the Get Safe Online website
- Place the computer in a central area of your home where you can monitor it frequently. Get your children used to involvement early. Ask what they're looking at and finding, or who they're visiting.
- Establish age-appropriate ground rules, including time limits, acceptable areas to access and reasonable penalties - such as denying internet access - if the rules are broken.
- Use blocking and filtering programs available as software or online. They will enable you to monitor or limit your children's net access. Ask your Internet Service Provider for advice, and see below for details about the Internet Watch Foundation.
- Warn your children frequently about the dangers of the internet, just as you warn them about the dangers of drugs, talking to strangers etc.
- Explain the importance of keeping personal information a secret - real names, home address, phone number, sports clubs etc.
- Tell your children never to respond to an angry, obscene or threatening message. Remind them to call you or another trusted adult if they come across something that makes them feel uncomfortable. Let them know that its not their fault if they receive bad messages.
- Be on the alert for signs of trouble:
* Overuse of the computer, especially at night
* Bad or explicit language -your child learned it from somewhere, perhaps online
* Obsession with violent fantasy games.
* Unexplained long distance numbers on your phone bill. Your child could be in contact with a stranger.
- Online friends; if you child makes online friends with another local child and asks if they can meet in person, first talk to the child's parents. Set up a meeting with the other child and parent, make it at a public place and accompany your child.
- Report inappropriate online activities. Contact the police immediately if an adult (or a person you suspect to be posing as an adult) tries to set up a meeting with your child. This could be a very dangerous situation.
- Child Pornography. Report any online child pornography to your Internet Service Provider and to the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF). The IWF is funded by Internet service providers and takes reports from the public about child and grossly indecent adult pornography. They pass on information to the police about sites where criminal offences are taking place. Their website is www.iwf.org.uk*
- Worried parents can also contact the IWF website for advice about how to set up "net nannies" to ensure their children aren't viewing unsuitable sites.
Protect yourself and your equipment, purchase or download good virus protection software to safeguard your computer. Choose a password with a minimum of six characters - short passwords are easy for hackers to crack.