Chat rooms and instant messengers can open the way for paedophiles, bullying, and also an ease of access to pornography and other graphic material if not filtered sufficiently.
This section provides advice and recommendations to those who wish to set up Internet facilities for children or who have worries about current ones.
What to do if a child is being harrassed, threatened or stalked
- If a child is being bullied or harassed via their mobile you should be able to call their phone provider who can give you advice on how to deal with the offender.
- If a bullying website has been put up the ISP should take down the offending site as soon as they are contacted.
- If they are being bullied or harassed on a chat site then contact those that run the service who should ban the offender, or report them to the police if need be.
- In more serious cases, where personal information has been obtained by a potential groomer, threats have been made or photos are being shared then the police should be contacted.
- Encourage the child to keep records of all cases of bullying or harassment, this will help any case you have to present to the service provider or police.
Child proofing browsers
- Keep your computer/s somewhere you can keep an eye on the children's activities.
- Help protect children from offensive pop-up windows by using the pop-up blocker that's built in to Internet Explorer. Google bar (downloadable from http://toolbar.google.com/) also has an excellent pop up blocker.
- You can add buttons at the top of your browser that link to websites that you would rather the child was looking at. You can do this by dragging the icon next to the web address link onto where it says 'Links' in your browser bar.
- Use kid-friendly search engines (such as MSN Kids Search) or search engines with parental controls.
- Provide rules or restrictions to stop children from downloading software, music, photos, and other files without asking you first.
- Encourage children to use only monitored chat rooms and message boards on reputable children's' sites.
Chat rooms and instant messenger services
There are a lot of chat rooms on the Internet and a lot of ways of providing the facility with different portals and software. Some are dedicated to particular interests, hobbies, and current affairs and some are just simply for chatting.
As well as chatting in a main room some chat facilities let individuals request private conversations with other members in another window, or with a 'whisper' function (used mainly in on line gaming), that is a bit like instant messaging. Things to consider when letting a child game or chat online:
- Community guidelines of conduct should be set up and read by users as part of setting up their accounts.
- If there is a user profile option advise users to not to put anything too personal on there like their full name or address, and to never give out this information to any other user.
- Ignore options should be available for anyone feeling harassed.
- Chat services that are available to young people should have word filters which eliminate certain profanities.
- A complaint or reporting system is should be available.
- Any chat moderators should be properly recruited, screened, trained and supervised: in the UK Criminal Records Bureau checks can now be made under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.
You can find further information on the internet and other issues from the sites listed on our links page.