I know people, especially parents, worry about the use of social networking especially by young people. I'm also a great fan of social network sites and see the value of them for myself and for teenagers. I love staying in touch with my friends (even if I have only just spent the afternoon with them!) and I know there are young people who feel the same and consider online networking a central part of their lives. Because of this, I think it's really important to balance concerns over safety with staying in contact with friends. We don't keep teenagers safe from road traffic accidents by keeping them of the streets and away from traffic. Instead we teach them safe ways of crossing the road, initially with adult support and later on their own. We also allow them to mature and learn to ride bikes and drive cars safely in time. So what is the equivalent of the green cross code for the internet?
The Panorama programme highlighted the excellent site CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre) site.
The site gives guidance for Parents, Teachers/youth leaders and young people themselves. Social networking should be a great tool for young people to chat to their friends but it can have a darker side as the progamme showed. To help keep social networking something wonderful for young people, parents should talk to their children about social networking and consider the following:
- Know what your children are doing online and who they are talking to. Ask them to teach you to use any applications you have never used.
- Help your children to understand that they should never give out personal details to online friends—personal information includes their messenger id, email address, mobile number and any pictures of themselves, their family or friends—if your child publishes a picture or video online—anyone can change it or share it.
- If your child receives spam / junk email & texts, remind them never to believe them, reply to them or use them.
- It's not a good idea for your child to open files that are from people they don't know. They won't know what they contain—it could be a virus, or worse - an inappropriate image or film.
- Help your child to understand that some people lie online and that therefore it's better to keep online mates online. They should never meet up with any strangers without an adult they trust.
- Always keep communication open for a child to know that it's never too late to tell someone if something makes them feel uncomfortable.
- Teach young people how to block someone online and report them if they feel uncomfortable.
- There are people who can help. Report online child abuse, or for more advice and support.