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In these days of online forums, chat rooms and social networking websites, the internet can be a dangerous place for a child to play. Telling a child not to talk to strangers is no longer enough when it comes to their safety. Nowadays it is just too easy for them to ‘talk’ to, and make ‘friends’ with, strangers online from the safety of their own home, lulling them into a false sense of security.

With the school holidays giving children more free time than normal, don’t panic – Sue Atkins of Positive Parents is a parent coach and author of “Raising Happy Children for Dummies", and she has some do’s and don’ts to help ensure safe surfing.

Do’s for Parents

Do: Talk to your child about how they use the internet. Encourage them to show you how they access the net and to talk to you about any concerns they may have regarding online chatting. Show an interest rather than point an accusatory finger of distrust at them. Your child will feel reassured and safe if you show a balance of respecting their way of communicating but keeping a watchful eye on what’s happening.

Do: Keep the computer in a public place in your home - if a predator sees a bustling living room or kitchen in the background on the webcam rather than just a quiet child's bedroom, he will probably be less likely to embark on attempting to groom your child.

Do: Keep up to date with technology. Ask your child to teach you new things - they’ll enjoy spending time with you, and you’ll enjoy being with them too, but also know that you are keeping them safe in the process.

Do: Remind your child that any people they only know through the internet (and not in the real world) may not be who they say they are.

Do: Check the privacy settings covering their profiles on-line.

Do: Make it clear to your child that you will occasionally check what websites they are using and will also sometimes ask questions to make sure they know the people they are contacting.

Do: Remind your child that anything they post can be visible to the world.

Don’ts for Children

Don't: post any personal information, e.g. e-mail address or mobile number on profile/s.

Don't: post anything online you don’t want the world to see.

Don't: continue online conversations that make you feel uncomfortable or suspicious about whom you are talking to. Report these to the Child Protection Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) website via their 'report abuse' facility and talk to your parents or another adult whom you trust to help you (see Resources box).

Don't: agree to meet anyone in person whom you only know via the internet.

Don't: open any attachments or links if you don't know (in the real world) the person who has sent them.

Don't: use your real name in chat rooms - pick a nickname just to use online.

Don't: assume that the people you are chatting to online are who they claim to be.

Don't: keep any anxieties, worries or little niggles to yourself about approaches to you, or conversations you have had, online. Talk to your parents and/or an adult you trust. If not, you can call Childline.

Don’t: ‘accept’ strangers who ask to be ‘friends’ on your online profile - say NO or just ignore them. Don't be tempted to say YES.

Don’t: agree if someone suggests keeping your chats a secret - tell your parents or a trusted adult.

“Keeping your child safe in this online world we live in means changing how you have traditionally thought about their safety. As a parent you owe it to your child to keep up with the fast pace of changing technology and keep them protected,” says Sue Atkins. If parents are worried about their child being bullied online they can access free resources from the Positive Parents website, such as a Bullying Diary to record instances which will make it easier for adults to help sort out what is happening.

Resource Box

• NCH - www.nch.org.uk/information/index.php?i=209 – advice on internet safety
• Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre - www.ceop.gov.uk
• Think U Know - www.thinkuknow.co.uk – part of the CEOP site. Has pages specific to certain age groups to help them understand how to use the internet safely. Can also report abuse here.
• Childline – www.childline.org.uk or Tel: 0800 1111


ENDS

Contact details:

• Lindsey Collumbell, Bojangle Communications - T: 01372 274975 / M: 0771 7744719 / E: lindsey@bojangle.co.uk
• Sue Atkins, Positive Parents Confident Kids - T: 01342 833355 / M: 07740 622769 / E: sue@positive-parents.com

Notes to Editors:

1. Sue Atkins’ is a parenting coach and her company is Positive Parents Confident Kids (www.positive-parents.com). Sue is a former Deputy Head with 22 years teaching experience and is an NLP Master Practitioner and Trainer, trained by Paul McKenna. Positive Parents works with parents to improve or hone their parenting skills, via one-to-one coaching, workshops and seminars. Sue’s favourite phrase is "because kids don't come with a handbook".

2. For more about Sue’s work and to receive her free monthly newsletter of practical tips and helpful advice for bringing up happy, confident, well-balanced children go to her website: www.positive-parents.com.


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