The Web, It Is Not Yet a Safety Net

There is no doubt that the web holds a wide range of golden opportunities for our world, for people of all ages, and for every human endeavor. It facilitates virtually all of our offline activities. It is a technological advancement that is evident in politics, relationships, businesses, writing, academics and training. The web is a fantastic avenue for global exposure, however in addition to its many benefits, there are also some negative aspects when it comes to the affect it has on our children.

Using the Web Is Not 100% Risk Free

In as much as we gain all the advantages offered to us by this great medium, we are also exposed to a lot of threats.  If we look closely, these threats may discourage us from using the internet. There has been a lot of research and many reports have been written on the needs and measures required to facilitate online safety.  The question remains, have these means been executed effectively?

Are our children safe?

With over 5.3 million internet users in the UK, 140 million internet users in the United States, and many more across the globe, web use continues to grow amongst people of different intentions and motives. If the advice we hear on the street, read in major magazines, and see on the news can help us keep track of the threats and find ways to avoid becoming victims of online fraud and scandals, perhaps it can also protect our innocent children who are often exploited by cyber criminals. More than 75 percent of kids between the ages of 10 to 17 use the internet. Their desire is to have fun, research and find valuable information for school assignments.  They may also use the internet and find solutions to various academic questions as they arise.  In addition, children connect with friends across the globe and expand their horizons by learning about other cultures and customs.  Often times you will come across a kid between the ages of 10 to 17 who is connected to the web with their personal mobile device.  On a daily basis, kids go online, meet and interact with friends and exchange pictures or videos.  It is possible however that our children may be in contact with total strangers who are not interested in their well being, and this in turn can result in dangerous behaviors.

When a child is physically bullied either at school or on the street, the results are visibly noticeable.  The child may come home with bruises and dirty clothes.  Unfortunately when a kid is cyber bullied, or becomes a victim of internet threats, parents are left in the dark and can not intervene to help their child.  In addition, child abuse and other inappropriate actions towards kids have found their way to the internet where a child can become a victim without his or her parents being aware of it.  What are people doing to eliminate these unfortunate situations? Will sensitizing the internet work, or are we going to stop our kids from using the internet altogether?

Barricading Access to Sites

Place a restriction on your child and they will take pleasure in finding a way to bypass your limitations. BT recently launched a security product called Cleanfeed. It blocks access to sites believed to contain illegal content. However, there have been several questions as to the function of this watch-dog product. Cleanfeed denies access to sites without explaining the reason for doing so. Even though it can be trusted to a certain degree, this product barricades both kids and adults.

With the incorporation of the parent control features on the latest versions of some internet security suits, there is the possibility of keeping an eye on the web activities of our children. With that said, it is great to have a full picture of what your children are seeing online, but who’s to say that they are not visiting dangerous sites from their school computers, mobile devices or at the internet cafes they visit with their friends.

How can we help our children stay safe online?

Having understood the sensitive nature of this issue, it is clear that there is a great need to draw attention to the online-safety campaign.  It is critical that schools be aware of the risks involved when using the internet and it is vital that supervision and appropriate restrictions are in place in school computer labs.  Online service providers should conform to all legal policies and abide by safety laws.  The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and other similar regulations should be strictly enforced. Teachers should see to it that they incorporate the teaching of internet safety in computer classes so that all students are aware of potential dangers.  Above all, parents play the most integral role when it comes to keeping their children informed, aware and protected from potential harm when using the internet.