Internet and Mobile Phone Safety
Internet Safety Image
In the children's section of our website we have included information for them about how to use the internet and their mobile phones safely.
In this section you will find information and advice which may be useful to you as a parent or a carer and also links to useful websites.
The internet is now part of everyday life. We use it to work, shop, play games and catch up with family and friends. Technology develops at an amazing speed, bringing more and more opportunities for the user. But it also brings some risks and can leave people vulnerable to fraud or abuse.
In Fife, we are focussing on five main areas of risk:
- Accessing inappropriate material
- Online scams
- Online gaming
- Social networking
- Mobile internet access and smart phones
Fife Council has created a mini site Staying Safe Online to provide advice on how to stay safe and secure when online, along with information about useful websites and other information sources.
You may also want to read A Parent's Guide to Facebook, which is designed to help you understand what Facebook is and how it can be used safely. You will be better informed and able to communicate more effectively about Facebook with your children. As the internet becomes increasingly social and mobile, a parent's guidance and support are ever more key to young people's well-being in social media and technology.
Top Tips for parents
- Ask your internet provider about installing Parental Controls
- Share internet time with your children - it's the quickest way to learn
- Keep the computers in a room that everyone uses
- Take an interest in your child's hobbies and friends and take these into account when setting guidelines
- Get to know who your child is chatting to
- Be aware of your child using a web cam and for what purpose
- Make sure all family members know not to give out personal or financial information
- Help your child understand that not everyone is who they claim to be online
- Let them know it's ok to tell you if they come across something that worries them
Child exploitation has devastating effects on children, both physical and mental.
Exploitative adults have been quick to use the Internet as a tool; they are very sophisticated and well practiced in how they approach children Children are fascinated by the ‘adult’ world, but there are measures you can take to protect your child from online risks and help them make the most of the Internet safely.
Be sensitive to changes in your child’s behaviour. It is up to attentive adults to recognise the signs of sexual exploitation.
Recent research from the NSPCC revealed that one in five 9 to16 year-olds use Internet chat rooms.
Risks from the Internet
The Internet has proved a useful tool for people wishing to exploit children. Recent high profile cases in the news have revealed that Internet chat rooms can be used by paedophiles to establish deceptive relationships with children. They then ‘groom’ children to become victims, either psychologically on the Internet itself, or by arranging to actually meet with them. Often victims believe that they are chatting to other children online.
Internet pornography can cause psychological damage to children who are exposed to it. But worse still, the Internet is a major method by which pornographic images of children are obtained and exchanged by exploitative adults. Sadly such images are in high demand, so pornographers will go to extreme lengths to entice and coerce children into getting involved against their will.
Making it safe to surf
There are ways in which you can help to protect your child online and ensure that the Internet is a safe way to learn and have fun.
- Ask your Internet Service Provider or local computer specialist about installing parental controls, which can prevent your child accessing websites with sexual content. These methods cannot provide a total safeguard but do offer some degree of protection.
- Learn all you can about the Internet.
- In the same way that you would teach your child about the dangers from strangers, warn your child about dangers on the Internet and lay down some ground rules regarding the time they spend online. If possible avoid your child going online in private, or at least ensure you have access to their computer.
- Make sure that they know they should never arrange to meet a new friend made on the Internet without a trusted adult present. Young children should never meet up with a stranger. Help older children understand the risks and how these can be kept to a minimum; eg by ensuring that any meetings are in public places and that the young person is always accompanied by a friend or trusted adult.
Watch out for possible signs of exploitation or abuse. Some of these signs are often completely innocent, but look out for changes in your child’s mood or behaviour, sleep disturbances or bed wetting, unexplained marks, problems at school, going missing or self-harm, asking about sexual experiences and terminology or evidence of pornographic material. Be especially aware of any new friendships between your child and older people, whether male of female.
If your child does experience some form of exploitation, whether mild or severe, it is crucial to be 100% supportive, make it clear that it is not their fault and that you are there to help and protect them no matter what.
Mobile Phones - Who has your child's number?
- Numbers can be passed on very easily and it's impossible to control where they might end up
- The same goes for pictures taken with a camera phone
- Remember, once an image is sent there is no control where it goes
This is the term used when an adult gradually gains a child's trust by getting to know them and pretending they are safe and friendly, when in fact they plan to abuse the child. Grooming is now a specific criminal offence.
Grooming - Who are these people?
- Adults who may pretend to be a youngster and who make contact with your child via a mobile phone or in internet chat rooms
- Adults who want to know lots of details about your child
- Adults who try to arrange to meet your child
- Adults who may claim that they love your child
- Adults whose intention is to have sex with your child
Did you know that...?
- The number of adults attempting to groom children across Scotland including Fife is increasing.
- Children being targeted can be of any age, including those as young as 3 years old.
- People who sexually abuse children are rarely strangers; most sexual abuse of children is carried out by family members or trusted adult friends. Sometimes they will have taken the time to gain your trust first.
Local police and the public protection unit team are specially trained to counter these forms of exploitation and offer support to children and parents.
- Prolonged secretive periods on the internet
- Changes in behaviour or mood
- Inappropriate sexual behaviour
- Asking questions about sexual experiences or terminology
- Leaving pornographic material, diaries or letters where they can be found
- If you think your child has been exposed to any form of exploitation encourage them to confide in you assuring them that they’ve done nothing wrong and that you will support them.
- Contact the public protection unit, local police or other appropriate organisations for further advice and support.
What to say
- Assure your child that you believe what they are telling you
- Create a positive sense of confidence between you
- Explain in your own way why these things happen and avoid making them feel ashamed or foolish about what they have experienced
- Let them know that you will protect them from further harm
- Know where your child is
- Be familiar with their friends and daily activities
- Teach you child to trust their own feelings and assure them that they have a right to say NO to what they sense is wrong
- Listen carefully to your child’s fears and be supportive
You can download an information leaflet at the link below. There are also some useful websites at the links below which will take you to external websites.