Parents warned about children's internet use

Parents were warned today to monitor their children’s use of the internet and protect them from online predators.

International and Irish experts joined forces to advise adults to learn how to navigate their way around cyberspace and make IT safe.

They said children should be encouraged to speak out if anything online makes them feel uncomfortable or threatened, and told others online are not necessarily who they say they are.

Advice offered at the makeITSecure seminar in Dublin also included discovering the internet with young children together, sharing online user names and passwords, and forbidding them from meeting anyone in person that they encounter online without your consent.

The event explored a range of topics including how social networking sites work, how parents can monitor their children’s activities, what kinds of threats are posed, and what do you do if you’re worried that your child is being bullied or targeted.

Minister for Communications Eamon Ryan, who opened the seminar, said while 70% of children use social networking sites, fewer than half of parents are familiar with them.

Recent research showed 79% of parents have given advice/rules concerning online threat, 73% have basic rules in place for protecting personal data, 70% know what their children communicate online, while 68% monitor online activities of their children, and 63% have basic rules in place to manage their time spent online.

Rachel O’Connell, chief safety officer at Bebo, a social networking site, said young people are spending more time online than ever before.

“The industry is committed to educating parents, teachers and young people about staying safe online,” she said.

“Bebo welcomes this Government-led initiative and encourages parents to make use of the makeITsecure resources.

“The Irish Internet Advisory Board has played a prominent role in raising awareness of online safety for many years by encouraging dialogue around the subject and producing educational resources to promote safer, more responsible use of the internet.”

Experts revealed that an analysis of Irish profiles on social networking site, Facebook, showed that 91% of profiles are public and can be viewed by anyone who is a member of the Ireland network, while 99% of people displayed their full names.

Almost seven out of ten gave their full date of birth, 19% listed their employer and 10% named their partner.

John Carr, an advisor to the UK Government on child safety, told the seminar the internet in general, with social networking sites in particular, played a central role in young people’s lives these days.

“The advantages of the new technologies far outweigh the negatives but nonetheless there are still hazards out there,” he added.

“Parents need to catch on and catch up because they are always going to be best placed to help their own children navigate their way around cyberspace getting only the good stuff and avoiding the bad.”

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