Using the internet, either at school or home, has become part of everyday life for children and young people in today’s world.
Your children will, if they haven’t already, get access to the internet. While the web can provide endless amounts of fun, entertainment and useful information, it’s also a gateway to explicit material and communication with strangers.
Sadly, bullying isn’t just confined to the school playground. Cyberbullying, using the internet or a mobile phone to send or post cruel text or images, also exists.
Just like other forms of bullying, cyberbullying is a way of intentionally hurting the victim. However because it doesn’t take place in person it’s not restricted to a particular time or place and can happen by e-mail or on messenger, forum or social networking sites.
Don’t take the bait
If you receive unwanted messages, whether they are abusive, offensive or distressing, it is important that you don’t take the bait and engage the sender in conversation. Most likely they are looking for a response, so ignoring it in the first instance is a good line of defence.
Block unwanted contacts
If the problem persists, there are some simple steps you can take to block the user. Importantly, the user will not be notified that you have blocked them.
In the case of Facebook, it site will withdraw their ability to send you messages. Twitter has an option for you to block users by simply clicking on a ‘block’ button on the settings of the user’s profile.
Report it to sort it
If messages develop beyond an annoyance and you feel further action is required, you have the ability to report the problem directly to the social media site. This is again an anonymous action and the user will not be notified that they have been reported. The social networking site will then investigate the user, who may be banned or a limited service.
Tell the police
If the messages you receive contain content designed to harass, alarm or distress you, it is likely the person has committed an offence under the Misuse of Communications Act. If this is the case, then Essex Police needs to be informed, even if you have blocked and reported the user to the social networking site. It is also useful for the police if you are able to keep a record of the abuse and the details of the account in question.
Did you know?
You can perform a security check on your social media profile. Click here to review your security settings:
The internet remains a great tool to help children explore and make friends but its anonymity makes it almost impossible to know exactly who your child is talking to.
While the majority of new acquaintances will be trustworthy it’s a sad fact that the web provides paedophiles with the opportunity to interact with your child.
Grooming is the term used to describe inappropriate behaviour online that puts a child at risk. It’s when actions are taken to befriend a child and form a trusting relationship, often with the intent to commit a sexual offence against that child. Some abusers will pose as children online and make arrangements to meet them.
The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) is part of UK police and works to make the internet a safer place for children by tracking and bringing offenders to account.
CEOP also works with children to highlight the dangers of the internet through their educational campaign Thinkuknow.
We understand this information is both shocking and worrying for parents. It’s not our intention to scare but to emphasise the importance of talking to your children and keeping a close eye on their use of the internet.
We've put together a list of tips to help you and your children remain safe surfers:
- Monitor the sites your children are visiting by glancing over their shoulder and checking the history folder once they have finished.
- Set up the family computer in a public area of the house such as the living room rather than a bedroom.
- Remember anybody can be anybody on the internet. Don’t take everything someone tells you or your child as the truth.
- Make sure your children understand they should never arrange to meet with someone they meet through the internet.
- Think about buying special software that restricts access to adult websites and any other web pages you would rather your child did not see. You can purchase this software at most PC stockists.
- Explain the danger of giving out personal details to your children. Make sure they understand never to give out their address, phone number of school name to anyone they talk to online.
- Learn the language of chat rooms so you can understand what your child has been talking about online and show as much interest in their chat room friends as their real life friends.
- Go online with your children as often as you can.
This is by no means a complete list but highlights the main precautions you should take.