Guest Post – Tim Gerrish, International Partnerships Manager, Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command of the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA-CEOP)
Digital technology is important to children and young people. They use it to learn, play, socialise and express themselves in all types of creative ways, whether that’s sharing photos and videos, blogging, gaming, or even developing their own apps. It provides amazing opportunities.
However, digital technology also poses some serious risks to children. There are links between child abuse in the context of tourism and digital technology. Child sex offenders can use it to access and groom children for the purpose of online sexual abuse.
Parents and carers can make a crucial difference in reducing the risks children face online and help keep them safe. So it’s important parents and carers understand what children are doing online and talk to them about the risks involved.
Our top tips for parents and carers:
1. Ask your child to show you the sites they use – By doing so, your child is including you in their online life and social activity. By taking an active interest and noting the names of their favourite sites, you can re-visit these when you are alone, take your time and explore the space, find out how to set the safety features and learn how to report directly to the site.
2. Ensure your child has their profile set to private – Social networking sites suchas Facebook, YouTube and Instagram are used by children to share information, photos and just about everything they do! Encourage your child to set their privacy settings to private, so only their real friends can see their content (these friends should only be people they know and trust in the real world). They need to think about the information they post online, as it could be copied and posted anywhere without their permission. If it got into the wrong hands, somebody may try to use it against them or try to locate them in the real world.
3. Ask your child about their online friends – We know that it’s easy for people to lie online about who they are and even create fake identities. It is very important children understand this. Children and young people should never give out personal information and only be “friends” with people they know and trust in the real world. Talk about how children can keep safe if they want to meet their ‘online’ friends, including by only meeting in public places, taking an adult they trust and letting you know about their plans.
4. Set appropriate parental controls on your child’s computer, mobile and games console – Filters on computers and mobiles can prevent your child from viewing inappropriate and possibly illegal content. You can activate and change levels depending on your child’s age and abilities. You can also set time restrictions for using the internet or games. They can be free and easy to install. Call your service provider who can assist you with this or visit CEOP’s parents site for further information.
5. Talk to your child about digital technology and online dangers – Sometimes children to get into situations online where they don’t feel comfortable or see something they don’t want to see. By opening up the communication channels and talking to your child about the internet, their favourite sites and the risks they may encounter, they are more likely to turn to you if they are concerned about something or encounter a problem.
6. Know where to get help if you’re concerned about your child – In the event of an emergency please contact your local police.
For more information and resources on keeping children safe online, please visit CEOP’s Thinkuknow website.