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Stranger Danger in the st Century

The days of not talking to strangers and not accepting sweets from them have long gone, as your child can make friends with people from around the global community in an instant. But how do you know who they are talking to and how do you monitor and keep a watchful eye on their activity? How do you keep them safe from paedophiles and away from inappropriate situations that can intimidate, terrify and overwhelm them? Internet Dos and Don'ts The internet is a valuable, exciting resource for children and adults alike but there are potential dangers associated with its use, especially for children. You may not have grown up with instant chatrooms and social networking forums but that's not a good enough excuse to bury your head in the sand and let your children have free reign on the Internet without some proper supervision - it can be a dangerous place to play. But don't panic - there are a number of simple measures you can follow to help ensure your child's safety online. Dos - for parents Do: Talk to your child/children about how they use the internet and their favourite sites.

Encourage them to show you how they access the net and to talk to you about any concerns they may have regarding online chatting. Show an interest rather than point an accusatory finger of distrust at them. Your child will definitely feel reassured and safe if you show a balance of respecting their way of communicating but keeping a watchful eye on what's happening.

Do: Keep your computer in a public place in your home - if a predator sees a bustling living room or kitchen in the background on the webcam rather than just a quiet child's bedroom, he will probably be less likely to embark on attempting to groom your child. Do: Keep right up to date with the new technology. Ask your children to teach you new things - they'll enjoy spending time with you and you'll enjoy being with them too but also know that you are keeping them safe in the process. Helpful sources of information include; http://www.thinkuknow.co.

uk/ website NCH: click on the section marked internet safety Do: Remind your children that any people they only know through the internet (and not in the real world) may not be who they say they are. Do: Check the privacy settings covering their profiles on-line. Do: Make it clear to them that you will occasionally check what sites they are using and will also sometimes ask questions to make sure they know the person they're messaging. Do: Remind your children that anything they post is likely to be visible to the world.

Don'ts - for children Don't: post any personal information (such as your email address or mobile numbers) on your profile/s. Don't: post anything online you wouldn't want the whole world to see. Don't: continue online conversations that make you feel uncomfortable or suspicious about whom it is you are talking to. Report these to the Child Protection Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) website via their 'report abuse' facility and go and talk to your parents or another adult you trust to help you.

CEOP website http://www.ceop.gov.

uk/ Don't: agree to meet anyone you only know via the internet. Don't: open any attachments or links if you don't know (in the real world) the person who has sent them. Don't: use your real name in chat rooms - pick a nickname just to use online. Don't: assume that the people you are chatting to online are really who they claim to be.

Don't: keep any anxieties or worries or little niggles to yourself about approaches to you or conversations you've had online. Talk to your parents and/or an adult you trust. If not, you can call Childline on 0800 1111. Don't: accept strangers who contact your online profile as friends just say NO or just ignore them. Don't be tempted to say YES.

Don't: agree if someone suggests keeping your chat a secret - tell your parents or a trusted adult. Keeping your child safe in this new arena needn't be scary but you owe it to them to keep up with the fast pace of change and keep them protected.

Sue Atkins is a former Deputy Head with 22 years teaching experience and is an NLP Master Practitioner and Trainer. She has written many books on self esteem, toddlers and teenagers and has a collection of Confident Parent CD's available from her website. She is also the author of "Raising Happy Children for Dummies" one in the black and yellow series published worldwide and available from all good bookshops. For more information go to => http://www.positive-parents.com

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