PC Village - Making the most of your Technology

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Family Computing: Surfing and Access safety

The Family PC   

The Internet is a great source of information and entertainment for all ages that is continuing to grow as families increasingly recognise its value within the home. A home computer can be a great way to help your children get ahead at school. With thousands of educational resources available on the Internet, a PC can be a valuable aid to education. Of course, with this academic freedom come certain risks.

What are the risks?

The main dangers people are concerned about can be grouped into:

Contact - the greatest danger in the virtual world is letting online contact lead to a meeting in the real world with someone who is not what they pretended to be and who poses a real physical threat. Young people must re-learn the old stranger danger messages in a new context and use the anonymity of the Net to hide their real location.  

Content - legal or illegal, there are some sorts of content that might harm younger users, or that offend the values and standards that you want to apply to your children's development. You can agree the ground rules about where your children go and how they behave, and perhaps choose some software tools to help apply your rules.  

Commerce - with the growth of e-commerce there are increasing concerns that in an unregulated global market place young people (and adults too!) may be exploited by dubious marketing practices or simply cheated out of their money. 

What can be done?

As in the real world, the first line of defence is learning how to behave to keep out of trouble. It starts with our own Tips for Parents and Carers.  

Getting Involved Learn as much as you can about the Internet yourself. Surfing should be a family activity, so use the Internet together as often as you can and discuss any problems you encounter. Keep the computer in a room where the whole family can use it.

Getting In Touch Get to know who your children are meeting online and make sure they are wary of  strangers and never give out any personal information about themselves. Be particularly careful about  children using chat rooms.  

Getting Around Keep an eye on the kind of material your children are looking at and make sure that  they go to the sites that you want them to see and not to the ones that you don't. Consider using some  of the filtering tools that are available to help you. 

Getting 'Gifts' Unsolicited 'gifts' can contain offensive or potentially harmful files such as pornography or viruses. Teach your children not to open emails and attachments or download files other than from people they know and trust offline. Be careful when you or your children are shopping online. Check that you are dealing with a bona fide company before giving out your credit card details or committing yourself to any transaction.  

Getting Hooked Limit the amount of time your children spend online, and encourage them to keep up their other activities and friendships. Keep the computer where you can check how long your children have been on the Net. 

Getting The Benefit Think positive. There are some wonderful resources for children to help them discover, create and connect with other children worldwide. Just as you look out for good TV programmes for children take the time to find the best and most useful sites for you and your family. 

Software Tools 

There are no foolproof ways of protecting children. The pace of modern living means that it may not always be possible to be around when they are surfing the web. As a result the popular solution is to turn to software tools to help you to protect the younger family members online. 

Filtering and Monitoring Products.

Many commercial products are available which can help to limit the potential dangers to children on the Internet. Installing filters can help you block sites you may not wish your children to be exposed to eg. sexually explicit material, hate and violence sites, alcohol and gambling. Software can also help you monitor the time your child spends on the computer and the material they have been viewing as well as block outgoing and incoming information.  

The most important thing to remember when it comes to considering which tools to use is that no single filtering product can be guaranteed to totally protect your child from accessing inappropriate material. Some older children may be able to find ways to get around the filter and children may be using other computers which do not have filters, for example at other people's houses or in Internet cafes. Like a seat belt in a car, a filter can help protect you but it cannot guarantee you will not have a crash!  

If you need help?

Deciding upon and implementing a family computing strategy to offer the best levels of child protection is a specialist task. PC Village specialises in addressing the issues arising from PC usage within a family or shared environment. Each environment tends to be unique making individual appraisal particularly important before considering the options available. 

If this is an area of concern wed be pleased to hear from you.

 

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