Frequently Asked Questions about keeping children safe while online

Published 12/05/2004 16:17   |    Updated 23/04/2008 14:13
Frequently Asked Questions about keeping children safe while online

At what age should I let my children go on the Internet?
Children are going online younger. The fastest growing segment of Internet users is now pre-schoolers. Follow the tips and guidelines above and they will benefit from the internet.


Should I let my children have their own email accounts
Young children should share a family email address. As they get older they will want privacy, so follow the age appropriate behaviours set out in the tips.


What house rules should I have for Internet use?
Develop rules with your children. Make sure to agree:

  • Where they can visit and what they can do.
  • How long they can stay online.
  • What to do if they feel uncomfortable.
  • How to protect their personal information.
  • How to be safety conscious.
  • Ethical and responsible behaviour online.
  • How to use chat rooms, news groups, and instant messaging.

Their input is critical to the agreement’s success. Print out rules and keep them near the family computer. Review it regularly.


How old should my child be to use instant messaging (IM)?
Children under 13 will need parental permission to use instant messaging and for the Hotmail account necessary for Instant Messaging. Your role is to help them with safety guidelines, privacy protection and responsible use of the technology.

  • Carefully review new IM contacts before allowing them on to a ‘Friends’ List’. If you’re doubtful, click to block them.
  • Teach them to never spread rumours, gossip or hateful messages.


Can I read my child's instant messaging?
In some cases yes but remember children can easily disable this feature. So, good open dialogue with your children is much more constructive than spying.


How can I prevent pop-ups on my computer?
Avoid pop-ups with blocking software.


Can children become addicted to the Internet?
The Internet is a wonderfully level field where any children can shine, regardless of looks and athletic ability. Excessive use may isolate shy children or infringe on homework, exercise, sleep or socialising. Parents should be vigilant as addiction is easy to miss.
Establish usage rules. Encourage a balanced regime that includes physical activity. Keep computers in shared areas. Finally, look at your own Internet use. Do you spend hours online? Are they following your example?


What should my children know about computer viruses?
It’s important that all users are vigilant, to protect your computer from outside threats. Make sure your children understand the following:

  • Never open unrequested attachments.
  • Configure instant messaging not to receive files from other users.
  • Never download files ending in ".exe."
  • Never download anything without consulting you first.

I am concerned about my children’s Internet use. Can I track where they are going online?
Yes but computer-savvy children can cover their Internet tracks. Openness and dialogue are important. If you are concerned, check the temporary files in the ‘History’ section of your browser to see what they’ve been visiting.


What should I do if my child is being harassed online?
Cyberbullying, or griefing, is on the increase. The culprit can be blocked but make sure to save any harassing email messages and forward them to your ISP who should have policy on harassment.
If the comments are posted on a Web site, ask your ISP to locate the site host and bring the offensive comments to their attention. Report it to the Garda Síochána as well - harassment is a crime and will be taken seriously.


Does filtering software work?
Filtering tools may be a useful support to parental supervision but they are not foolproof. They may also block useful things that children want for school. As children grow older, judgement and responsibility are the most important protections.


My teen wants to shop online. How can I be sure the site is secure?
Before allowing a teenager to use a credit card online, give them clear guidelines about shopping online on how to keep transactions safe.
Encourage them to read this leaflet and ask them questions to be sure they understand the implications.
Before shopping on a Web site, look for:

  • A Better Business Bureau quality assurance or equivalent.
  • An unbroken lock icon at the bottom corner of the page.
  • An "https" in the address - the "s" stands for secure.

All of these can be forged, so make sure they ask you before shopping online. Make sure your browser supports 128-bit encryption so that your credit card number is automatically encrypted, or scrambled, before it is sent.


What should I look for in a children’s site privacy policy?
Make sure to read a Web site's privacy policy before giving any personal information - though they can be lengthy, complex, and vague.
If the Website doesn't have a privacy policy or statement, tread carefully.
Reading a privacy policy, you want to know:

  • What information is being collected and tracked?
  • How this information will be used - is it going to a third party?
  • Can you change or delete data collected from your children?
  • What safeguards do chat rooms, message boards, and email activities have for children?
  • Does the site seek verifiable, parental consent before a child releases personal information online?


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