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Internet safety for children — a wake-up call

By Michael Brangman

Convicted paedophile, 35-year-old Robert Hunter, over the course of three years, while disguising his age, identity and using internet sites such as Facebook, Skype and MSN, targeted and abused girls as young as nine years old across three continents including Canada and the USA. He was arrested in December 2012 and after receiving bail continued targeting children. Hunter later pleaded guilty to 30 offences. This was reported in the UK by Sky News on Monday 16th September 2013.

While this is an extreme case, the threat is real.

This is the world we live in. For many the internet is a gift as it provides and allows us access to the world.

For the unfortunate few, as the introductory paragraph describes, this gift can be a curse.

Most of the time, the issues parents face with regard to their child's internet usage are relatively minor. These include children being accidentally directed to pornographic websites to sending or receiving inappropriate material.

For example, a child can easily miss a key stroke accidentally spelling the wrong word.

Even searching the word “bunny” can potentially expose someone to Playboy. As parents or guardians, it is incumbent on us to take the necessary steps and learn about the internet and how we can protect our children.

The following points provide simple tips and steps parents or guardians can take to protect children while using the internet.

• Parents should learn how to operate and manage their child's mobile devices. Knowing how to change security settings or implement parental controls are important tools for managing your child's internet usage.

• Encourage children to keep private information off the internet as much as possible. Once posted on the internet, the information can live on forever. Never send anything that could potentially cause embarrassment or even worse. Examples are their home address, compromising photos, gossip, their schedules or passwords.

• Don't completely rely on internet safety software to protect children from exposure. Talk with your children making them aware of the potential dangers of using the internet.

• To prevent children inappropriately using the internet, keep the computer in a shared room rather than your child's bedroom. Knowing that potentially another family member may see what they're doing online, encourages appropriate use of the internet.

• Participate in your child's internet experience. We must do more than set rules or purchase parental software. We must teach our children how to use the internet responsibly. It is best to start with children when young and guide them throughout their developing internet usage experience.

• Parents or guardians should set rules and guidelines governing their child's online activity. Create and have your child sign a simple internet usage agreement and keep it on the fridge door.

• Include the whole family in internet activities by having children use the internet to help plan family events like birthdays or family gatherings. This helps them improve their internet usage skills in a positive manner.

• Remember that while you may have security features in place protecting your child; their friends may have open access to the internet. When over their friend's home, you have no control over the content they can view.

• Parents or guardians should monitor and have access to all their child's online accounts.

There are many resources available which provide a plethora of information on managing a child's use of the internet. Here are three great resource websites to use. The first two are for all and the third focuses on teaching children how to safely navigate using the internet:

Internet Safety.com: The resource page of this website has a lot of great information. Additionally, you can print off a cool, free, kid friendly internet usage agreement for use between you and your child.

NetSmartz.org: This website is fun and well organised. It provides easy to find resources and strategies for dealing with many of the problems parents will face with the current level of technology. The website is a great resource for educators, law enforcement and children of all ages.

The Carnegie Cyber Academy: Provides free, fun and engaging internet defence training for children of all ages. There is a great “Cyberpedia” that defines common internet and technical terms which are great for all especially adults needing to brush up on their tech speak.

For those in Bermuda who still do not believe it necessary to protect our children from cyber threats, in the October 2, 2013 edition of The Royal Gazette, it was reported that 28-year-old Kishauni Wolffe pleaded guilty to three counts of having unlawful carnal knowledge with a girl under the age of 16. He met her through Facebook.

Michael Brangman is Marketing Manager at Logic Communications. He can be contacted at mbrangman@logic.bm or 296-9635.

Beware: Don't completely rely on internet safety software to protect children from exposure and talk with your children about the potential dangers of using the internet, including the social media site Facebook.

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Published October 23, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated October 22, 2013 at 7:36 pm)

Internet safety for children — a wake-up call

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