How safe is your child online?
Thu, 17 Jul 2008 12:00a.m.
Statistics show in the last three years children's internet use has doubled and online users are getting younger and younger.
Social networking sites are a popular communication tool but research indicates there is a growing gap between what parents think their children are doing online and what they are actually doing.
Like many parents Nicky Karu is worried about her daughter's safety online.
And she has got every right to be concerned. One in three children will have been bullied or harassed on line by the time they are 15 years old.
And one in seven will have come across potentially harmful or inappropriate material.
“But we do rely on her good judgement to be able to let us know when these things are happening you know is this bad or is this good because sometimes she doesn't recognise it,” says Karu.
And that is a common problem. Cyber safety expert Martyn Wild says children under 15 are particularly vulnerable because they do not always understand the consequences of their online decisions, and the sites they are using are not always for homework.
55 percent of 12 and 15-year-olds and 27 percent of eight to 11-year-olds are members of social networking sites like Bebo, Facebook and Myspace.
The sites are largely unregulated, which means members can easily exchange personal information.
“Photographs are a big thing. Information about where they are playing, who they're playing with, where they're going, what cinemas they go to, and what school they go too, that's the biggest issue. And of course once you've got this information you absolutely know who this child is,” explains cyber safety expert Martyn Wild.
At just 10 years old, Maia has been a member of Bebo for almost a year. Her mother knows about her profile but does not closely monitor Maia's internet use.
Sites like Bebo let you have either a public or private profile, the privacy setting limits who has access to your profile and is much safer, but Wild says often users are playing the numbers game.
“Rebecca down the road has got 828 friends, I don't, so I’m not as popular, and the easiest way to get more friends is to set your profile to public,” says Wild.
Parents are encouraged to talk regularly about their child's on line life and to question who they are in contact with, no matter how responsible a child is.
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