Are Your Children Safe While Using the Internet?

Are Your Children Safe While Using the Internet?
After attending workshops on Internet Safety, we, as teachers and parents
ourselves, felt it was crucial to inform parents of the alarming facts that we face, as
our children become more and more reliant on the internet.
The "Net-Generation"
With the availability and increasing use of the internet in most homes, our children
are growing up with the internet and have been dubbed the "Net-Generation".
"They are spending their formative years in an environment that is fundamentally
different from their parents." -Don Tapscott
The "on-line" environment provides opportunities for children to interact through
instant messaging sites such as MSN Messenger or Yahoo Messenger, "chat rooms"
(a webpage where people can communicate privately, using an alias) and to
post their own and others' personal information and photos on sites such as and MSN Spaces.
As a result, our children are forming and sustaining many of their relationships in
"cyberspace" (the virtual world of the internet). This has lead to several issues that
we feel parents need to be aware of.
Through instant messaging or email, students are writing to each other in "real time"
(instantaneously). Although most communications are friendly, some can become
threatening, abusive or hateful. With some children, creating an alias for themselves,
may provide them with a false sense of security and power which can lead them to
say things that they would normally feel is inappropriate. This can also be a means
for children to instantly spread rumors, gossip or false information to multiple
recipients at once. Children can also post or send out hurtful or inappropriate
cartoons, or digital photos onto the world-wide web.
Facts about Cyber-bullying:
18% of students in grades 6-8 said they have been cyber-bullied in the last couple of
months; 6% said 2 or more times.
11% of students in grades 6-8 admit to cyber-bullying at least once in the last
couple of months; 2% more than 2 times.
Of those cyber-bullied in grades 6-8:
by another student
by a "friend"
victims of instant messaging (IM)
bullied in a chat room
bullied on a web site
bullied through email
bullied through text messaging (on cell phones)
of victims report emotional distress
(Kowalski, 2005)
Many children post personal information such as their real name, address, age,
school, likes and dislikes on sites such as MySpace or MSN Spaces. Sites such as
these allow children to create a personal web page for the purpose of creating a
friend "network". Although children can create an anonymous alias, many post real
information and even photos. Chat rooms and instant messaging allow children to
communicate with each other and even view each other on web cams. Unfortunately,
this can lead to children opening themselves up to becoming a victim of sexual
predators. Personal information can be used to lure children into dangerous
encounters. Information given out when registering for any of these services can be
used for searching out children of a certain age, sex or within a given area. If a
computer is left on, with a webcam plugged in, it is possible for someone to turn on
the camera remotely, even when the camera appears to have been turned off.
Some Alerting Facts:
70% of children are "on-line"
70% of 13-14 year olds have been in a chat room
80% of those children do not tell their parents
25% of children who use chat rooms have been asked to meet face-to-face - 15%
do!! -of the 15%, only 6% went with an adult!(Media Awareness Network,
Canada, 2006)
55% of internet users have received unwanted pornographic material from strangers
(OPHEA, Teacher Resource, 2006)
Facts about Cyber-stalking:
76% are initiated in chat rooms
41% of offenders were ages 26-39; 35% were 40 or older
80% openly discussed sex
74% a meeting took place
93% of meetings involved sexual contact
60% of victims report feeling "in love" with the offender
5% involved force or violence (OPHEA, 2006)
What We Are Doing?
For Students:
Workshops and presentations from Peel Police, Youth Education.
For Teachers:
Internet Safety in-service training.
For Parents:
This web page, and links for further information.
What You Can Do as a Parent?
Monitor and facilitate your child's computer use (especially if you find they are
spending 3-5 hours a night "doing homework" on the computer).
Talk to your Internet Provider (Sympatico, Rogers, etc.) about getting Parental
Control set up on your computer that blocks many potentially harmful web sites and
limits internet use.
Have your computer in a central place in your home, such as a family room, kitchen
or hallway, as opposed to in your child's bedroom.
Unplug webcams and turn off the computer when not in use.
Watch for sending or receiving of cruel or threatening messages, stories, cartoons,
jokes or pictures that ridicule other children.
Discuss with your children about standing up to Cyber-bullying and Cyber-stalking
Not accepting communications from people he or she is not familiar with.
Blocking any addresses of people who they don't know or may be suspicious.
Telling an adult when he or she receives an inappropriate, or suspicious
Saving any communications that are inappropriate, as proof in case an
investigation is required.