Have you ever wondered what your children are up to when they are supposedly quietly working on their homework using the internet? If you have children in your home, you will know how very computer aware they are these days. Most of them have used computers from a young age both at home and at school. There are certainly many wonderful educational resources available to them and it can open doors to many new interests. However children and young people also spend a lot of time engaged in social networking, for example in online chatrooms with their friends. They may also be busy illegally downloading movies, TV shows and music.
According to recent research, almost one third of six to 14 year olds have illegally downloaded US TV shows prior to them being shown in the UK. 16 per cent of children said they illegally downloaded films before they are released in the UK. From 2011, if your internet user account is identified as being used for unlicensed file-sharing, your internet service provider will be contacting you to say that your IP address has been used for unauthorised activity and if this continues, legal action may follow. Apart from this, illegal file sharing sites are often home to viruses and may leave users open to identity theft.
However, far worse can happen, as you will certainly be aware from the many high profile stories in the media. Cases range from accidental or deliberate viewing of inappropriate material, to chatroom “grooming” by online sexual predators. In some sad cases children have arranged to meet these people in real life with terrible consequences. It is all too easy to find unsuitable material. The results of a simple search for information for a homework essay may throw up some very inappropriate web sites, which could be upsetting if they were viewed.
So how do we manage what our children are doing online? If we have the knowledge, we can set rules and teach them safe and responsible ways to behave online. However, older children in particular are very IT literate. They also tend to think they know more than we do in most other areas as well. Investigating the world and testing boundaries are very much part of growing up.
As responsible parents we must act to ensure the safety of our children in every way possible. Make sure you know the rules for safe behaviour on the internet and teach them to your children- your child`s school should be able to help. There is also much good advice on the internet. In addition to this, every computer in the home should have internet security software installed. This will enable you to know exactly what they have been up to and help to keep them safe and legal.