A mother installs monitoring software on her family computer. She uses it less as a monitoring device than as a means to teach her sons about digital safety. The Post-it on the family’s computer reads: “Don’t Forget That Mom Sees Everything You Do Online.” She does not, in fact, check frequently. She just wants her boys to think before they hit the “send” button, so they understand that there is no privacy online, from her, or anyone.
Should parents be monitoring their children’s use of the internet?
Before one can answer that question they need to be aware of the reasons why a parent would do this. There are a number of issues that need to be considered:
1. The Internet is NOT a private place
Everything you do on the Internet is saved in multiple locations, whether it is email, pictures, messaging or videos. Information is logged on your computer, on the receiving servers and the computers of users that access that information. Even when your intention is private, any information, photo or video can very quickly become public.
2. The damage is irreversible
Information on the internet is backed up, copied and archived. Even if you delete the information you originally sent or posted, it can automatically becomes available from other locations on the internet which you don’t have access to delete. Many employers now search on the internet for information on their prospective employees – inappropriate information and pictures posted to the Internet ‘for fun’ can severely impact the perception of that individual in the future.
Cyberbullying occurs when the internet, email or mobile phones are used to deliberately and repeatedly engage in hostile behaviour to harm someone. Cyberbullying can result in those involved experiencing social, psychological and academic difficulties. There are growing concerns and links between cyberbullying and teen suicides.
4. Sexual Predators and grooming
The anonymity offered by the internet can allow people to cover their true identities. For example, someone who says they are a 12 year-old girl could actually be a 40 year-old man. This anonymity means that sexual solicitation and online grooming can occur online and are serious risks. Sexual solicitation is where someone is asked to engage in a sexual conversation or activity or to send a sexually explicit image or information. Online grooming and procuring of children over the internet is the illegal act of an adult making online contact with a child under the age of consent with the intention of facilitating a sexual relationship.
5. Exposure to inappropriate material
Children using the internet can be exposed to material that is inappropriate or harmful for them. This could be material that is sexually explicit or offensive, violent or encourages activities that are dangerous. Some websites promote extreme political, violent, racist or sexist views. Some sites contain material that is potentially prohibited or illegal.
Many people do not read the Privacy Statements or Terms and Conditions of Use on internet sites and do not really know how their personal information is going to be used and whether it is being passed to other organizations. Personal information includes name, address, date of birth, phone numbers, email addresses, usernames and passwords, bank details, student identity card details or passport details.
7. The internet can be above the law
If your child is being bullied or sexually targeted on the internet who do you turn to? Your school, the local police, Internet Service Provider, website owner? What if the perpetrator is anonymous, what if the website is offshore, how do you find who is responsible? There has been many example cases where parents do not know where to turn for help.
My personal opinion is that parents from an early age must have visibility and control of their children’s life. You should not stop your children from engaging in new technologies such as the internet but at the same time you should not be giving them complete freedom – just as you don’t do this in their real life. Visibility and control can be relinquished as the child matures and as mutual trust is built.
Since we’ve determined that the Internet is not in fact a ‘Private’ place, perhaps the Post-it note on the computer should read:
Don’t Forget Anyone May See Anything You Do Online
Article by 8snaps.com
Our mission is to create a safe environment for children to grow so that the future is a brighter place for everyone. We have created an online service for parents and schools which makes it very easy to monitor children’s online activities. The service is available at http://www.8snaps.com.