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Internet safety

​Although there is a lot of information available about the dangers of the internet, the language can be confusing if you aren’t familiar with it. The information on this page will help you understand some of the issues in more detail and also direct you to other sources of online information if you have further questions or concerns.

Where will my child chat/communicate?

The internet lets users chat with friends and family in interactive 'virtual' communities. These communities (eg Facebook, Bebo, MySpace) are increasingly popular with children because they allow them to communicate in real time'.

Real time means their contributions (or 'posts') are displayed immediately, for example in an online chat or wall. However, not all virtual communities will be moderated or supervised.

The following are examples of tools that your child may use to communicate with others online:

  • Social networking sites are online communities of people (eg Facebook) - users have a number of different ways of communicating with each other.

  • Instant messaging services (which look like small pop-up windows) let users see when people on their 'friends list' are online and send messages to them.

  • Online gaming is becoming increasingly popular with young people. As well as competing with each other online, online gaming communities (eg: xBox Live and PlayStation Home) allow young people to talk, form teams and swap ideas.

  • Chat rooms are 'virtual' rooms where users can 'talk' to each other by typing, either one to one or involving a number of people.

  • Forums are online discussion groups - these discussions can take place in real time or over a longer period (users can continue to add comments). 

  • Blogs are like online diaries - the 'blogger' publishes comments and discussions and readers can also add their views (blog is short for 'web log').

All popular social networking sites offer advice to parents on how to keep young people safe online. For example, Facebook and Twitter provide useful information to parents on protecting users of their website.

ConnectSafely has published free, downloadable parent guides to Snapchat and Instagram.

The NSPCC Share Aware website provides information to help you keep your child safe on social networks.

 

What online dangers should I be aware of?

The internet can be fun and useful but you and your child need to know the risks too. Making sure your child knows the online dangers is just as important as teaching them to cross the road safely.

 

Grooming

Unfortunately, some adults with a sexual interest in children will use the internet to communicate with young people. Online grooming is when an online predator behaves in a way that suggests they are trying to contact children for illegal purposes.

Sometimes online predators pretend to be children themselves and start online conversations with real children. They may try to continue the relationship in personal conversations on mobile phones (sometimes known as whispering) or private chat rooms.

Once they have established some trust, the offender may try to organise a meeting with the child. This may take weeks, months or even years.

As part of the grooming process, the offender might also try to exploit the child by sending them indecent or pornographic images. This might be by email or sometimes by using a webcam (a camera connected to a computer, which can produce still pictures and video footage).

The offender may even use blackmail to persuade the child to do something they don't want to. It is vital your child knows that not everyone on the internet is who they claim to be. It's also important that both you and your child report anything suspicious.

 

Cyberbullying and cyberstalking

Cyberbullying is bullying using digital technologies such as computers, games consoles and mobile phones. If someone is stalking someone else over the internet it's known as cyberstalking. 

respectme, Scotland's anti-Bullying Service, offers advice on cyberbullying. You can access this via the respectme website.

 

Reporting suspected grooming and cyberbullying

You and your child can report any suspicious, threatening or offensive behaviour to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) centre.

Related links

NSPCC - Online safety

ParentPort - Online safety

Get Safe Online - Safeguarding Children

Choose.Net - Staying safe online: parental control software

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