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Editor's Blog and Industry Comments

Safe surfing for kids during the summer holidays

04 August, 2008
With children out of school for the long summer break, its time to take another look at how to help them keep out of danger while surfing the net.
With cyber bullying, child grooming and internet exploitation of the young and vulnerable being so prevalent in the world, a number of organisations are attempting to raise awareness levels in both parents and children alike about the dangers they can fall foul to and how to prevent them.

Despite the fact that there is little new in the advice offered, statistics show that many continue to ignore it and bury their heads in the sand, not expecting that anything bad is likely to happen to them. BroadbandChoices, a UK based ISP recently reported that as many as 84% of parents surveyed simply had verbal agreements with their children about what was acceptable and what wasn't. Quite what these verbal agreements amount to is anyone's guess but their scope is hardly like to engender a safe surfing environment.

On this basis, ISPs and organisations such as "Positive Parents" are offering tips on how to control online activities and these tend to boil down into the following groups:

Communicate â€" Tell the children what the problems are and how they can avoid them and also take the time to learn about what they're doing, especially if you're not so internet-savvy yourself. At least this will help you speak the same language which is always something of a challenge between parents and teenagers.

Environment â€" Confrontation never works and doesn't give a child a comfortable feeling about expressing his worries if anything bad does happen. Online problems are like those in the real world, if they're left to fester they escalate. This is particularly worrying with the increase in cyber-bullying which can be a distressing experience for a child. Another environmental aspect is keeping the computer in a supervised area rather than encouraging 3am surfing by installing a laptop and a web cam in each bedroom.

Technology â€" Use the technology which is available. Instant Messages can be logged and reviewed and in extreme cases can even be presented to the authorities in cases of on-line abuse. Web sites can be blocked or filtered to prevent access to sites which you'd prefer your children not to visit and finally, make sure security software is installed and kept up to date with the latest patches. Chatrooms and point to point applications like instant messaging programs are notorious for the distribution of scripts and other nasties.

For more comprehensive advice, you can take a look at the Positive Parents web site and cases of abuse can be reported to the Child Protection Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) web site.

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