Extracts from a booklet published by Home Office Communication Directorate - Dec 2001


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Minimising the Risk

What about schools?  Don't they teach children about internet safety?

Throughout the UK, pupils are taught how to use email to communicate and how to evaluate different sources of information (including websites).  They are also encouraged to appreciate the need for responsible use of these technologies in order to protect information, individuals and society.  Schools build key safety messages into these topics, with a view to making sure that pupils understand the safe behaviours to adopt when online.

It is important for you to let your child know that you are aware of these safety messages and to reinforce them at home.


What about chat rooms that are supervised?

These are called "moderated" chat rooms and may use a real person or special technology to block personal details, and keep the conversation appropriate.

They sound like a good idea

They are a step in the right direction but the technology is not foolproof and if chat rooms use human supervisors, ask the provider of the chat rooms how they have been recruited and trained.  Even if the chat room is moderated, the same safety rules apply.

It all makes me feel powerless and worried

It shouldn't.  The important thing to remember is that you can help your child be in control.  Children like to feel they have tools to cope.  If you explain the safety messages you are giving them something useful and valuable.  Though the internet is a new medium, the safety messages will be familiar.  Just as you have taught them about talking to strangers in the real world, so you can teach them here.

Are chat rooms the only places where they can make contact with strangers?

No.  They can also meet people online in places called newsgroups, communities, groups or clubs and by using Instant Messaging.  But the good news is that the same rules apply:  NO personal details; NO meeting up with anyone in person unless they are accompanied by an adult.

Are there danger signs I can look for?

A child spending an excessive amount of time online could be a worrying sign.  Only you as a parent or carer can decide what is excessive, but if it dominates their social activities you may decide it is too much.  Talk of a "boyfriend" or "girlfriend" they have met online may also be a cause for concern.

What about pornography?

Pornography is very easy to find on the internet, even by accident.  Encourage your child to tell you if they find something online that disturbs them.  Reassure them that it is not their fault and that they will not be punished as a result.

But teenagers are naturally curious about sex.  They might go looking for this.

They might.  Every family is different and only you know what your teenager is mature enough to see.

What about moving the computer?

If possible, it is an excellent idea to keep it in a family room.

Where else can I get help?

Your Internet Service Provider should also be able to provide safety information and tell you what services it provides for children and teenagers.


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