It is very important that you know what kind of content is available online and on other devices such as mobile phones and games consoles, and that you speak to your child about what is appropriate for his/her age or stage of maturity and what is not.
Your child may inadvertently come across unsuitable or dangerous content through a search engine or by clicking on a link or pop-up or by typing a wrong website address. A child may be upset by a comment on a social network page or, out of curiosity, look for pornography or other adult content.
As a general rule, anything that would be illegal in the real world is illegal in the digital world too. Although it depends on the laws of each country, illegal content includes photos of child sexual abuse and extreme violence and racist material.
With more than one trillion URLs (website addresses), the Internet is a fantastic source of information. An enormous library. However, since anyone can set up a website, create a blog or update a wiki (a type of website that allows anyone to create and edit its pages), not all information can be taken as true and it may be misleading. For example, some people use the Internet to promote extreme political views and encourage dangerous behaviour.
More and more young people have access to music, video, games and other exciting content on downloading and social networking sites and they share this content. While it is good to see such creativity and self-expression, your children may not be aware of the possible legal consequences of downloading and what these mean for their security/safety.
It is very important that your children realise that what they write and the images they upload or send digitally could have a huge effect on their standing in the real world for a very long time. The main reason is that anything uploaded to the Internet can be searched for and saved by anyone. Once it’s out there, you can’t recall it.
Identity theft is not an issue that concerns adults only. Young people can also fall victim of identity theft which could go unnoticed for years, until they want to open a bank account or obtain a student loan, for example.
Bullies now use new technology to threaten, intimidate, harass, defame and ostracise young people and, in some cases, to pretend to be them or steal their identity. The Internet, mobile phones and other devices are likely to become a new means through which bullying takes place.
Anyone who uses e-mail and a mobile phone has received unwanted, useless or Spam messages. These are usually sent by someone you don’t know as part of a bulk email or SMS delivery. Your email address or mobile phone number is often chosen at random or found online.
Exploring and testing sexual identity is a normal part of adolescence. The Internet and mobile phones have simply given young people new ways of doing this since they now have access to a broad range of information about such issues. Now, your children have access to a wide range of information on websites and blogs and through their mobile (e.g. help lines for teens), as well as the chance to socialize with other young people on social networking websites, in chat rooms and talk to experts on forums and message boards about issues that concern them.
Online grooming is the term for when someone contacts a child with the aim of “preparing the ground” for sexual abuse, either online or offline.
Some young people send and receive sexual or suggestive photographs and videos in which they are naked or semi-naked. “Sexting” (i.e. sex + texting) involves exchanging such images via messaging, email or Bluetooth and they have, unfortunately, gained a certain exchange value in relationships.
Many children and young people enjoy playing online games but they may inadvertently come across gambling websites on the Internet. They may click on a banner or pop-up by accident or search for a gambling website out of curiosity.
Just as a child can be passionate about a sport or a hobby, he/she may also love going online, playing on a games console or listening to music on an mp3 player. In rare instances, children and young people may become addicted to technology, especially computer games.