Thursday, May 25, 2006

Keep your kids internet safe - RM column April 20

I have been very lax about posting the Echo columns so here's a couple from the last nunber of weeks, I haven't scanned them hence the delay so apologies in case you have been waiting ;)

Red Mum Column April 20

CONSIDERING the fact that an estimated 6,000 people sign up to the internet community site Bebo every day in Ireland. Also consider the Microsoft equivalent MySpace has grown from 4.9m visitors in 2005 to more than 67m currently, so it is worth exploring what your teenager is doing on the internet.

Many parents haven’t a clue where to begin to find out or indeed what they can do about it, but there is a lot you can do.

Parents must be more aware of the information their children are imparting on the internet And we need to hammer home to our children that certain behaviours are just not safe, such as posting pictures of yourself on the internet.

I suppose some people could put this down to hysterical Mummy but I have said before that I love the internet and I am grown up enough to realise the dangers and take the necessary precautions such as NEVER giving out phone numbers and the like.

It is frightening the amount of personal information our teenagers are giving away from phone numbers to information on where they’ll be at any given time, what they look like, what they like, take one look around Bebo and see for yourself.

While the vast majority of what goes on in Bebo or MySpace and the like is totally harmless, fun and sometimes informative, there are occasions where this is not the case.

I read recently about an incident where a 17-year-old female Bebo member from a small town up North has been linked to by a man in his mid-20s who told her that he had seen her about the town and suggested they should meet up. Now if that is not frightening, what is?

So let us imagine that you bought the apple of your eye a PC or a laptop for Christmas. Did you buy it and that was it?

Or did you install some of the Internet Nanny programmes where you can set what they can and cannot view on the internet?

Internet Nanny programmes allow you to set with a password the kind of sites that can be viewed on the internet.

And come on remember what it was like being a teenager. For most teenagers the draw of the more shall I say savoury side of the internet is great. Of course it is and even if your teen isn’t interested in that at all, their friends might be and peer pressure is very tough to handle.

Besides it is actually easy to stumble across the dodgier sites on the internet.

A scary statistic from showed that one in five children have received a sexual solicitation online.

Now without scaremongering this is an American site and in Ireland we do not have the level of internet participation as in American so the statistics I have quoted are somewhat watered down here. However they do give food for thought.

You can also check what your child has been looking at by checking the computer’s internet history. Once you are in the internet press the CTRL button and at the same time press the H button.

This will give you an idea of where your teenagers have been surfing. Of course they may be a step ahead and have already removed the history.

So if you are worried check out some of the programmes that you can install easily which will prevent access to particular sites.

And talk to your child about the dangers of the Internet; everyday is Halloween on the internet, people are often not what they appear.

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