Children And The Internet

online1READING my former colleague S. Indramalar’s recent article in The Star (Oct, 9) on keeping children safe online compelled me to write this article.

Not for anything, just a self-reminder on how important it is for me to keep an eye when my kids surfing the Internet. It is like drilling the things into my brain, over and over again, as I am writing all this down.

For the past 15 years or so, I vaguely became aware how the Internet has, quite effortlessly becomes a part of our daily existence. Surely for many of us who are relying on the Internet in everything we do, it has make our life lot easier.

From banking to shopping especially, the Internet is playing the big part and it is a welcome change for some who don’t have to brave the traffic and fighting for parking space just to do that. Now with the online banking system and (online) shopping, we don’t have to leave the comfort of our home or office.

I remember for us journalists, no more walking up to the library to check on previous news or even older publications in the archives. Everything is available online. If thats not enough, there are search engines at our fingertips such as Google and the likes.

Children and young people spend a lot of time online – it can be a great way for them to socialise, explore and have fun. But children do also face risks like cyberbullying or seeing content that’s inappropriate.

And it is important that we talk to our children about staying safe.

Most children and young people use the internet positively. However, sometimes they behave in ways that may place them at risk. Some risks do not necessarily arise from the technology itself but result from offline behaviours that are extended into the online world, and vice versa.

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With all emerging technologies there is the potential for misuse. Risks associated with user interactive services include: cyberbullying, grooming and abuse by online predators, identity theft and exposure to inappropriate content including self-harm, racist, hate and adult pornography.

According to http://www.safenetwork.org.uk/  potential risks can include, but are not limited to:

  • Bullying by peers and people they consider  ‘friends’
  • Posting personal information that can identify and locate a child offline
  • Sexual grooming, luring , exploitation and abuse contact with strangers
  • Exposure to inappropriate and/or content
  • Exposure to racist or hate material
  • Encouragement  of violent behaviour, such as ‘happy slapping’
  • Glorifying activities such as drug taking or excessive drinking
  • Physical harm to young people in making video content, such as enacting and imitating stunts and risk taking activities
  • Leaving and running away from home as a result of contacts made online.
  • Potential indicators of online grooming and sexual exploitation of children and young people

And as many of us are aware, the capabilities of social networking services may increase the potential for sexual exploitation of children and young people. As it has been reported in news of late.

These can include exposure to harmful content, including adult pornography and illegal child abuse images. There have also been a number of cases where adults have used social networking and user interactive services as a means of grooming children and young people for sexual abuse.

But don’t despair, there is also helpful to spot some signs of online grooming techniques which include:

  • Gathering personal details, such as age, name, address ,mobile number, name of school and photographs;
  • Promising meetings with sports idols or celebrities or offers of merchandise;
  • Offering cheap tickets to sporting or music events;
  • Offering material gifts including electronic games, music or software;
  • Paying young people to appear naked and perform sexual acts;
  • Bullying and intimidating behaviour, such as threatening to expose the child by contacting their parents to inform them of their child’s communications or postings on a social networking site, and/or saying they know where the child lives, plays sport, or goes to school;
  • Asking sexually themed questions, such as ‘Do you have a boyfriend?’ or ‘Are you a virgin?’
  • Asking to meet children and young people offline;
  • Sending sexually themed images to a child, depicting adult content or the abuse of other children;
  • Masquerading as a minor or assuming a false identity on a social networking site to deceive a child;
  • Using school or hobby sites (including sports) to gather information about a child’s interests likes and dislikes.

And it is also helpful that most social networking sites set a child’s webpage/profile to private by default to reduce the risk of personal information being shared in a public area of the site. But then again, you can’t be too careful when comes to our children’s safety, online and offline. A

For additional reading: http://www.star2.com/family/children/2015/10/09/whose-job-is-it-tokeep-our-kids-safe-when-they-go-online/

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