Internet safety

The Internet is a relatively new resource, which has greatly enriched our lives, opening up new and exciting opportunities for learning and communicating around the world. However, the rate of technological advancement has been, and still is, phenomenal. Many professionals, parents and carers find themselves overwhelmed by these developments and, in many cases, the young people they work with, (and their own children) are streets ahead in their knowledge and use of this resource.

The Internet can contain material and websites  that are inappropriate for children and young people; promote racial, or other hate ideologies; and, can also provide an opportunity for abusers to target, contact and ultimately abuse children and young people. It is important that professionals are aware of the dangers and are able to direct and support young people and their parents/carers in safe use of Internet based services.

Internet safety issues include:

Inappropriate websites and material -  whilst using the Internet, it can be very easy to accidentally access websites with adult or illegal content. Also, there can be issues with “spamming”, where pop-up adverts or emails can be sent to your computer which are inappropriate for children.

“Cyber bullying” - young people being teased, perhaps by children from the same school, and sometimes linked to actual assault. This can sometimes take place via chatrooms, emails and by mobile phone texting.

Chatroom contact - real time interactivity, and the potential anonymity of chatrooms, can make young people vulnerable to the activities of abusers, who may pose as other young people. This can take the form of indecent proposals or sending of indecent images, which can be disturbing and distressing. There have been cases of abusers using chatrooms to “groom” young people and try to set up meetings with them, with the intention of perpetrating abuse.

What can you do?

1. There are a number of resources for parents, carers, professionals and children dealing with Internet safety - describing the problems, and offering solutions and advice. The following easy checklist offers some tips for improving safety, but is not exhaustive.

Internet safety Checklist

  • It is important to discuss groundrules for computer use with young people, and to talk about what they have seen and who they have met
  • Personal information, including real name, age and contact details, should not be given out on websites or in chatrooms
  • Adults should monitor the services and websites accessed by children in their care, preferably placing computers in more communal areas
  • Young people should be encouraged and feel able to tell adults about any obscene images and suggestions, or information and contact that has made them uncomfortable

2. The websites listed below provide good, easily accessible resources for young people, professionals and parents/carers.

Website Resources

Think U Know - A new website aimed at children and young people provided by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre. Contains very useful information about how to stay safe on line

Childline - a website run by the charity and sponsored by major UK children’s’ charities aimed at parents and young people

Net Aware-  the NSPCC's guide to the social networks your kids use. Stay up to date and keep your child safe in today's digital world.

Childnet’s Kidsmart - an interactive Internet safety programme website for schools, young people, parents, and agencies,

Internet Watch Foundation - the UK hotline for reporting illegal Internet content

SafeKids - an internet safety resource for children

Parent Zone, Parent Info provides up-to-date, expert information for parents on a range of concerns they may have about children and young people, which is designed for schools to post on their own website.