Protecting teens online

>>  Saturday, July 13, 2013

You got the Pants rule for your tots, dumb ways to die for your tweens, so I'll finish this series with teens.

The information below has been provided by KnowtheNet, it is useful information and there is more on their website to help you, also don't forget that CEOPs have a fantastic ThinkYouKnow website that has age appropriate interactive games and information for all ages.

I am pleased I have spoken to Cog already about a lot of this stuff, I am forever reminding her that 'once it's out there, it's out there' you can't get it back and your future prospective employers will find it. We also currently have a rule that she has to 'know' every person she is friends with on social media, the 'take me to their house' sort of know, I expect this will not continue forever. I mean, I 'know' a lot of you but I haven't been to dinner at yours yet! I also have full access to her social media accounts, but then she also has full access to all of mine. I'm big on the whole trust thing, fraping on any level would be an unforgivable offence in this house.

Do have a look at this from KnowtheNet, I think it's worth it, even if we already think we know it all (just like our teens do):

In that awkward phase between childhood and adulthood, teenagers fumble their way through, trying to make adjustments as they grow up. The battle between hormones, an increasing self-awareness and a desire for independence often leads kids to make ill-informed choices.

However, the social networking revolution means that these mistakes are not only played out in public, but the evidence is permanent, potentially damaging reputations for many years to come. This is not to say that social networking is an evil blight on youth – far from it; but the disinhibiting nature of the medium means that many teens act in ways they would never dream of in the real world.

Here are few potential danger points and some ideas on how to help your teens stay safe online.

 Fraping, account hijacking and impersonation

If you have never heard of “fraping”, you’re not alone. According to research by Nominet,
49% of parents have never heard of it either. At the most basic level, “fraping” is posting status updates on someone else’s Facebook page without their permission.

Although these posts are often humorous or light-hearted, they can occasionally be incredibly offensive, or even defamatory. What surprises most parents is that 30% of teenagers have fraped others, showing how common the practice really is.

Apart from being downright unkind, fraping may be illegal and definitely breaches the
Facebook Terms of Service. If your teen is caught, they will have their account deleted, and could even end up in court. It is therefore essential to discuss the potential impact of such behaviour with your kids, trying to get them to understand the longer-term implications.

Copyright theft

The free and open nature of the Internet often leads many people to believe that the law doesn’t apply online. As a result, over a third of teenagers admit to downloading copyright-protected music, films and games illegally.

Although children may think downloading or “torrenting” is harmless, the penalties for stealing content are not. The copyright owner has a legal right to sue anyone caught stealing media.

Apart from discussing the legality of accessing and downloading content with your teenagers, you may also want to investigate using
parental control software to block torrent sites and software completely. This may cause some turmoil in the household, but this will be far shorter-lived than a civil prosecution.

Grooming and paedophiles

Wherever young people congregate online, there is always a danger that sexual predators and paedophiles may also be present. Despite being a well-known danger, many young people are still susceptible to approaches by predators.

According to
research carried out by Nielsen, teenagers often have in excess of 130 friends on Facebook. The study also found that more than half of the young people questioned didn’t actually know all their “friends” in real life. For parents this is quite a worrying statistic, particularly as the anonymous nature of social media means that people may not always be who they say they are. 

Predators will establish relationships with young people and, over time, encourage them to engage in sexually explicit behaviour. This process, known as grooming, may involve sending compromising photos, or even meeting up in real life.

If you suspect your child may be in touch with a paedophile, it is essential that you report the issue as soon as possible. The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre is a Police division that deals exclusively with Internet predators. You can report any suspicions via the
CEOP website direct.

You should always encourage your children to talk to you about anyone they “know” who makes them feel uncomfortable on or offline.

Risky behaviour

Some young people find that they lose many of their inhibitions when interacting online, leading to poor choices. Smartphone apps such as Snapchat have hit the headlines for facilitating “sexting”, the transmission of explicit photos and videos between users.

Although these apps claim to automatically delete photos, there are often ways for
pictures to be saved by the recipient. These images can then be shared with other people or posted online for the purpose of embarrassment and humiliation. There is also the risk that such images will bring the young person involved to the attention of a sexual predator. 

Having a frank and open discussion with your teen about such issues and trying to emphasise the long-term implications is essential. The topic may be sensitive, but is always better dealt with head-on, rather than hoping it will go away.

Trolling and cyberbullying

Trolling and cyberbullying are both increasingly common on forums and social networks, seeing young people regularly abused and victimised by anonymous bullies. Whether they know the troll or not, the emotional impact on the victim can be devastating.

All the major social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and so on) have built-in tools for reporting and blocking bullies, which should hopefully resolve the problem. Where the bullies persist, the issue can be reported to your
local Police force via their website, or on the non-emergency 101 telephone number. 

The good news is that the Nominet research found that 53% of teenagers would turn to their parents in times of trouble, so keeping channels of communication open and honest is essential. Ultimately, your children may mistakes online, and all you can do is to try to help work through them. More important than anything else is letting your children know that you are there to provide help and support, no matter what.


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