by Sgt Nathalie Ranger
Social media sites such as Facebook, twitter, instagram, snapchat,and whatsapp increase communication, access to information and help in developing a sense of self.
However, the thought of what your child might come across online can be worrying. Here's some simple advice to make sure going online is a positive experience for you and your child.
1. Discover the internet together
Be the one to introduce your child to the internet. Try to find websites that are exciting and fun so that together you achieve a positive attitude to internet exploration. This could make it easier to share both positive and negative experiences in the future.
2. Set rules for internet use in your home.
Try to reach an agreement with your child on the guidelines which apply to internet use in your household. Here are some tips: Discuss when and for how long it is acceptable for your child to use the internet. Agree how to treat personal information (name, address, telephone, e-mail)
Discuss how to behave towards others when chatting, e-mailing or messaging. Agree what type of sites and activities are OK or not OK.
3. Encourage your child to be careful when disclosing personal information
It is important to be aware that many web pages made for children ask them for personal information in order to access personalised content. Being conscious of when and where it is alright to reveal personal information is vital. A simple rule for younger children could be the child should not give out name, phone number or photo without your approval.
Older children using social networking sites like Facebook should be selective about what personal information and photos they post online. Once material is online you can no longer control who sees it or how it is used. What goes online stays online.
4. Talk about the risks associated with meeting online "friends" in person
Understand that the internet could be a positive meeting place for children, where they can get to know other young people and make new friends. However, for safety and to avoid unpleasant experiences, it is important children do not meet strangers they have met online without being accompanied by an adult, or others they trust. In any case, the child should always have their parents' approval first.
5. Teach your child about evaluating information and being critically aware of information found online
Most children use the internet to improve and develop knowledge in relation to schoolwork and personal interests. Children should be aware that not all information found online is correct, accurate or relevant. Educate children on how to verify information they find by comparing with alternative sources on the same topic. Show them trusted sites they can use to compare information.
6. Don't be too critical towards your child's exploration of the internet
Children may come across adult material by accident on the web. Also a child may intentionally search for such websites; remember it is natural for children to be curious about off-limits material. Try to use this as an opening to discuss the content with them and perhaps make rules for this kind of activity. Be realistic in your assessment of how your child uses the internet.
7. Report online material you may consider illegal to the appropriate authorities
It is vital we all take responsibility for the web and report matters which we believe could be illegal. By doing this we can help to prevent illegal activities online, such as child-pornography or attempts to lure children via chat, mail or messaging.
8. Encourage respect for others; stamp out cyberbullying
There is an informal code of conduct for the internet. As in everyday life, there are informal ethical rules for how to behave when relating to other people on the internet. These include being polite, using correct language and not yell at (write in capital letters) or harass others. Also, children as well as grown-ups should not read other's e-mail or copy protected material.
9. Let your children show you what they like to do online.
To be able to guide your child with regard to internet use, it is important to understand how children use the internet and know what they like to do online. Let your child show you which websites they like visiting and what they do there. Acquiring technical knowledge could also make it easier to make the right decisions regarding your child's Internet use.
10. Remember the positive aspects of the internet outweigh the negatives
The internet is an excellent educational and recreational resource for children. There are age appropriate sites for younger children. Encourage your children to use such sites and to avoid registering for sites and services with adult content and behaviours. Help your child read the terms and conditions of service for any site which they wish to join and to comply with the age restrictions of the site. Help your child apply all the privacy and security settings on the site. Encourage your child to be critically aware and explore the internet to its full potential.
Be safe, Bahamas!
For more information, contact the National Crime Prevention office on 302-8430, 302-8431, 302-8154 or visit www.royalbahamaspolice.org.