As hours spent on the internet increase among young people, so do the risks associated with grooming and cyber-bullying. Here are some points.
Online child safety expert and former member of the Victoria police, Susan McClean says two main places that paedophiles visit are social networking and online gaming sites, where children are easy targets.
“Young children are trusting and vulnerable so that's the perfect canvas for a paedophile. They [paedophiles] pretend to be like-minded children and they gain their trust,” she says.
“This is something kids won't pick up on because they don't yet have the cognitive maturity.”
Tips to keep your child safe online:
• Parents need to visit the same sites that their child is visiting.
• Check contact friends list on any online application and go through them with the child.
“The only people your children are connecting with online are those they know in the real world,” says Ms McClean. “Do not have an online-only friend because that is fraught with danger.”
• Embrace technology. "It's no use saying, 'No, you're not going online' because your child will do it behind your back,” she says.
• Do not reveal personal details such as photos, email addresses and real names. Always use an avatar.
• Never let your child agree to meet someone they have never met in real life.
What to do if you suspect something:
• Trust your instinct and act.
• Contact your local police or a cyber-safety expert.
• Have open lines of communication with your child.
• Don't delete accounts because that information will be crucial to police.
“Unless parents do their job of talking about the dangers, moderating and supervising, these things are going to continue,” says Ms McClean.
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