For video lessons, school resources, articles, links and publications on how to ensure your children use the web wisely go to the Webwise.ie (www.webwise.ie).
The Internet is a great source of knowledge and entertainment for children. It can also be a dangerous place if children do not know how to use it safely and are not supervised while online.
There are many ways parents can help protect children from these dangers and ensure that a child's online experience is a happy and productive one.
Here are some Tender Loving Care steps for parents - they can be used even if your children know more about the Internet then you do!
Talk to your children about the potential dangers and be aware of what your children do on the Internet. Tell your children to exit a site if they come across disturbing material. Encourage your children to tell you about anything that they find that makes them feel 'uncomfortable'. Show your children how to use the internet as a research tool where they can find information for projects and homework tips. Teach your children that information they find on the Internet is not always reliable.
Keep the computer where you can see it in a busy part of the house - a living room or kitchen. Spend time online and see what your children are doing. Take note if your children are spending too much time online.
CHECK Check the history file for suitability of chat rooms and websites that have been visited. Check emails (especially for younger children). Check phone bills. Consider using filters such as net nanny, labels and safe zones.
SET RULES ABOUT When the Internet can be accessed and for how long. Never giving out personal information without your permission Never agreeing to meet an online friend without your knowledge and permission.
AGE GROUPS Children of all ages can use the Internet. Here are some general guidelines for different age groups and your involvement with your child's Internet activity.
Under 7 Pre-schoolers can begin to explore the Internet and the computer with parent's guidance. Sit with them and show them net navigation and basic computer skills. Children from about five years can begin to visit children's sites with you and can get involved in email correspondence with family and friends.
8 - 11 From about first and second class children can become more interested in exploring the Internet, chatting and corresponding online. They may be targeted by marketers and junk mail but increasingly they will learn to recognise the difference between advertising and other material. It helps to talk to children about commercial information and how to deal with it. Also they may start to assert their independence by looking at 'forbidden material' so it's important to keep in touch with what your children are looking at and talk to them about what they are doing online.
12-18 Teenagers find the Internet is a valuable tool for homework and projects as well as entertainment. Being teenagers they may also want more freedom to surf and are more open to peer pressure. Their online and email contacts may expand. Many teenagers are Internet savvy and understand basic computer programme. Teenagers are more likely to be able to differentiate between advertisements and other material. It is increasingly important to stay in touch with what your children are doing online. Ensure that they understand that posting messages to chat rooms and newsgroups makes their email address public. Talk to them about laws relating to copyright, privacy, software piracy, hacking and obscenity.
MOBILE PHONES About eight out of 10 Irish people have a mobile phone. Unfortunately mobile phones have given senders of bullying or malicious communications new ways of harassing a person. This includes offensive phone calls, texts or images. In some cases sending offensive or malicious communications is a criminal offence. Here are some tips you can give your child about receiving bullying or malicious communications.
Not to reply to calls, text or picture messages that they did not want to receive. Be careful of who they give their mobile number to. If they receive abusive messages or calls they should keep a note of the times and dates, save the message to their mobile phone and always tell a parent, teacher or guardian. Advise children not to send messages to someone when they are angry or upset. Mobile operators will change mobile numbers for free in cases of bullying or harassment.
LINKS Here are some other sites with advice on using the Internet safely: Internet Advisor Board (www.iab.ie) Irish Internet Child Pornography Hotline (www.hotline.ie) How to keep safe online (www.chatdanger.com)
Click here to download 'Get With It': A parent's guide to new media from the Internet Advisory Board (http://www.rte.ie/tv/theden/netsafety_book.pdf).