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How can I ensure my child is protected online? Web Sheriff Q&A

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As a parent, how can I ensure my child is protected online in the best possible
way? Should my 10-year-old daughter be using Facebook?

All too often, parents don’t realise the dangers that their children are exposed
to on a daily basis on the internet and it’s vitally important that all
parents implement some basic safeguards to ensure that their children are
not exposed to harmful or traumatising images and incidents on the net. The
biggest concern these days – particularly in the case of teen and
pre-teen daughters – is that of sexual predators and paedophiles,
attempting to groom youngsters by posing as kids themselves and trying to
arrange ‘dates’ and meet-ups. For starters, you should ensure
that parental controls / filters are activated for your child’s email and
browsing account – all telecoms companies and internet service
providers will have these filters available and you simply need to read-up
on your provider’s terms of service to locate the instructions on how
to set-up these controls: if in doubt, telephone your service provider and
they’ll take you through the process.

You should also ensure that you can check your child’s browsing history and,
if they delete it, then theyshould be ‘grounded’ from the internet
for at least a week by locking their laptop away and out-of-reach.
Similarly, you should insist upon having your childrens’ passwords – remember
who is boss and who bought them their laptops in the first place. Joking
aside, this is for their long-term safety and do not allow them to
get into bad habits from an early age.

With regard to social media sites such as Facebook and MySpace, 13 is actually
the minimum age limit that most of these sites set and many people would say
that 14 is even better/safer. Should parents allow their children to join
social media sites when they are pre-teen (which is not recommended), then
it is even more important that you check their activity on a daily basis and
ensure that they are not being bullied or groomed. Again, check their
profile and their activity on a regular basis, daily if possible and at
least three times a week if not. If you see anything untoward, contact the person
responsible through the site to warn them off and, if you suspect any kind
of fraud or paedophile activity, then alert the site’s administrators
immediately and stop your child using the internet until the issue has been
successfully resolved.

Last, but very far from least, your children must never post their
telephone numbers or addresses on-line as previously mentioned. As a painful
reminder of how just how important these daily safeguards and checks are, we
have been involved in helping bereaved parents re-trace their children’s
online footsteps, in tragic cases where teen and pre-teen kids have killed themselves,
after having been sucked into the vortex of suicide web-sites and self-harm
chat-rooms – and without their parents having any idea of what was
going on under their noses.

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