Sunday, 11 January 2009

Internet Safety - Tips for Parents

Protecting our children goes with the territory of being a parent. From a young age we warn and train them about the dangers of the fireplace, crossing the road and encountering strangers. When it comes to the internet these principles still apply, but sometimes we feel that we are not qualified to do so. John Palfrey and Urs Gasser in their book Born Digital offer some sound advice:
Parents and teachers need to start by putting in the time it takes to understand how the digital environment work so that they can be credible guides to young people. ...

The home is a good place for parents to begin. They must get smarter about what their kids are doing online, which need not be something that their kids do by themselves in an isolated part of the home. p.100
It is perhaps too easy for us to install a "net nanny" program on our home PC and assume that that we have fulfilled our parenting responsibilities. It is important that we share the experiences of our children. Just as with crossing the road, we cannot be there all the time, but it is worthwhile spending sometime going through the basics together with them.

Whereas we may have some control over the other people our children encounter in "real space", we cannot regulate whom our children meet in digital space. However, we can help them to make better decisions about their own safety when online. A study from the US and New Zealand confirms this:
The more often "significant adults" talk to young people about their experiences online (and occasionally monitor what they are doing), the less likely the youth are to engage in risky behaviour (defined as disclosing personal information, meeting up offline with someone they met online, or sharing photos with strangers). The young people who did not have the adult intervention were four times more likely to agree to meet up with someone they met online. [Study by Berson and Berson 'Challenging Online Behaviors of Youth']
For more on internet safety: see Microsoft's which outlines "10 things you can teach kids to improve their Web safety" and also has some excellent age-related tips:
The EU Insafe Website also has some useful information on a range of Internet Safety issues.


  1. This is the reason why I use Facebook, Flickr and Youtube, inter alia, with my students.

    Taking up the idea within the old TV maxim of 'Show, Don't tell', I think it's better for me as a teacher to allow students to see how I'm using Facebook responsibly, rather than preach a sermon of fear.

    This also allows me to use Facebook et al as an effective communication tool, which students understand and to which they will respond.

    As more adults in education, together with parents, begin to reflect on how the technology they're using can be assimilated into the learning environment, we may see a reduction in inappropriate content posting and usage by children.

    As we know from experience, having a good role model goes a long way to engendering responsible practice.

  2. To Facebook with students or not to Facebook? A question I have asked myself quite a few times over the past year.

    I applaud your sharing your site with them, but I personally would be wary of setting up teacher to student communications within this vehicle.

    Much of the banter and exchange that goes on between my kids and their friends is fun, but not necessarily beneficial to the parent/child relationship. And I think it would be a shame if they concentrated too much on writing for an audience wider than friends (teachers or future employers perhaps?).

    As numbers of personal contacts grow and Facebook itself evolves, surely the potential problems for the teacher/student relationship will too?

    Whether or not students will adopt an educational/professional only alternative with the same degree of enthusiasm, I doubt, but imho the two aspects of their life should stay discrete.

  3. The question of the appropriate relationship between pupils and staff in cyberspace is a finely balanced one. I have found the "limited profile" feature on Facebook a useful way of distinguishing between two distinct audiences: my true "offline" friends and people whom I know or encounter. The former have access to personal data; the latter can see a more formal face, most of which is already in the public domain.

  4. Hi Mark,
    Saw this article: and thought of the one you wrote. Shocking as it is, it supposedly started with the following:
    "Ms Drew and several others created the fake online page on MySpace, the social networking site, to find out what Megan was saying about her daughter after they had fallen out."

    Over-protective parenting surely. But cyber-bullying must be as much of a concern nowadays for parents and teachers as actual physical and mental bullying. Any thoughts on how schools might combat this? It seems that with so many other inroads, banning social networking sites on school computers, as many schools do, is simply not an effective solution.

  5. Internet is a technology which if used in the right manner can prove very beneficial for the humanity but if you don't know the safe way to surf the Internet then you will put yourself in the hands of cyber criminals. Thanks for the safety tips.

    Arnold Brame