Keep it safe
Keep an eye on what’s going on by keeping the computer in a family room, rather than in a bedroom. Learn how to use a computer, access Internet sites and try out a chat room for yourself so you understand what can happen. Check out which sites your children are visiting to see if they are acceptable. Ask other parents to tell you about good chat rooms or websites. Look for sites that check messages in chat rooms and those which include clear guidelines for use, teen-friendly advice, warnings and how to report concerns.
You can buy software filters which block access to websites with a sexual content. These don’t make Internet use totally safe so it is still much better for you to take an active interest in the sites your child is browsing.
Set ground rules
- Limit the amount of time your teenager spends on the Internet – and stick to it.
- Discuss the kind of websites they can visit which are right for their age.
- Make it clear that they must never give out their real name, address, home or mobile phone numbers or any other personal details, or post photos of themselves on the Internet.
- They should always let you know if someone is asking questions or wanting details they don’t feel happy about giving. It’s important that your child understands why there need to be rules. Explain that because they can’t see or hear the people they chat to on the Internet, they may not be who they seem. Paedophiles gain the trust of young people on the Internet. Remind your teenager that strangers on the Internet can be just as dangerous as strangers on the street. If your teenager is secretive when using the computer, if you notice changes in how they act, problems sleeping or changes in routine or they are suddenly asking about sexual matters, you should look into whether their Internet use has anything to do with it.
Keeping it secret when using the Internet, changes in how they act, unusual sexual questions, leaving clues (such as emails) that they are having chats with others which seem sexual or you are not comfortable with, or problems at school and not telling you where they are going or who they are meeting.
Set up and stick to your Internet-use ground rules. Learn all you can about the Internet and how to use it yourself so you can understand what they are viewing and whether it is suitable.
What to say
Discuss with your teenager the dangers of chat rooms and looking at unsuitable websites. Make sure they know that any personal information, including their real name, should not be passed on to anyone else. Be open-minded about the teen websites they are viewing, but let them know that if they are worried about anything they see or read on the Internet they can ask you about it.
Keep the computer in a family room, with the monitor facing outwards, so you can always see what’s on screen. Discuss which websites they are looking at and take a look for yourself. Make sure your teenager is aware of the dangers.
Getting further help
This resource introduces some of the most popular devices, highlighting the safety tools available and empowering parents with the knowledge they need to support their children to use these technologies safely and responsibly.