Online Safety



Ensuring your children are safe online


Previous articles in the Oxford News have provided information for parents about how to ensure that the hours their children spent interacting with their computer are productive and safe. There have been many developments during the last year so this article is designed to flag up some of the buzz words and invite you to find out more if you are interested.


eSafety at Oxford


Parents! The internet is integral to the lives of children of all ages. It opens up new opportunities and is now an essential part of their every day world whether they are using it for homework, to talk and share materials with their friends or for a multitude of other uses that are legitimate and beneficial in so many ways. But where children go there is always the risk of hidden dangers – whether in the real or virtual world - so register with “ThinkUKnow” to receive monthly updates providing you with the latest information on internet safety and keeping your children safe online.

Hot Topics


Formspring

Formspring.me is a free, simple, service that allows you to create anonymous question boxes for all of your social networks. It has been reported that many Patana students have been using this service but because the question poser can anonymous some of the content can be quite inappropriate. This site has been blocked on campus.


You Tube

This is a web site that invites visitors to “Broadcast Yourself”. Anyone can upload a video which can be viewed by anyone around the world. There are some really interesting videos on this site but there also some videos showing personal aspects of children’s lives their parents may not approve of.


Bit Torrent

This is a file sharing service that supports the distribution of video and sound files between computers. It achieved notoriety for allowing users to easily share their music collections despite copyright restrictions.


Blogging

A blog is an online diary. Many people have blogs which can be read by anyone else with Internet access. If your child has a blog, and many of them do, are you sure that the information (and photographs) they are posting are suitable to be read by the general public. Often children will not have a good understanding of the type of people reading their blogs and the possible motives involved.


Facebook/MySpace

These are examples of a social networking sites. We know that many Patana students have social network pages with photographs of themselves, their friends and other personal details. Some of these sites are unsuitable for public viewing.


Second Life

Second Life is a 3-D virtual world entirely built and owned by those who have subscribed. Since opening to the public in 2003, it has grown explosively and today is particularly popular with teenagers. Second Life has recently emerged as one of the cutting-edge virtual classrooms for major colleges and universities, including Harvard, and New York University.


Because it is an open environment that can be used by almost anyone with Internet access, Second Life has encountered a number of criticisms including some moral issues. A safer “Teen Second Life” (the parallel world for 13-17 year olds) requires parents’ credit card details before allowing a child to sign up.


Phishing

I regularly receive emails looking as though they have come from a bank or other reputable organization. They are actually scams designed to encourage me to visit a genuine looking web site inviting me to enter my personal details and passwords. This scheme, conning many people every day, is called phishing and steals valuable information from unsuspecting individuals.


Online Games

Does your child spend hours at a computer playing computer games? Easily accessible these days are online games where individuals are playing against other players online. World of Warcraft (commonly abbreviated as WoW) is probably the most popular multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) and many parents believe that simulating war is a waste of time and not a suitable activity for their young people.


Mobile Access

A large proportion of new mobile phones have web access. This means that children can access content from the Internet wherever they are without parental or teacher supervision. With the advent of picture and video messaging - young people need to be increasingly careful about the images they share. It is very easy for inappropriate images to be shared around a number of phones, changed and even put online, where it is impossible to get back. Young people also need to be aware that they put themselves at risk of mobile bullying, or inappropriate intimate contact if they give out their mobile number to people they don't fully trust.


Malware

Unfortunately there is an increasing amount of spyware, viruses and other programs in circulation which attempts to take control of your computer in some way. You can become “infected” by opening attachments to emails, copying files from one computer to another using an external drive and even by visiting certain web sites. A regularly updated antivirus program and avoiding known risky activity is the way to stay safe.


Email/Chat rooms

Chatting with other people online is great fun but occasionally the person you are chatting with is not who they seem to be. You can find out more about “grooming” and online child abuse here: http://www.ceop.gov.uk/get_advice_what_is_grooming.html


These methods of communication have been used in the past as a vehicle for bullying as the bullies can be relatively anonymous if they choose. Bullying is not tolerated at Patana in any form and offenders are dealt with in the same manner as other serious behavioural issues and could ultimately be permanently excluded from Patana.



Suggestions for home


Find out about the dangers

This article is intended to provide a very brief update and you are encouraged to do your own online research for aspects you are particularly concerned about.


Technical solutions

Using features built into Internet Explorer 6, Outlook Express, and Windows Messenger, you can help ensure a safe Internet experience for you and your children. While nothing can replace common sense in dealing with any individual situation, in this column, you’ll find a few additional recommendations to help protect your family’s online privacy and safety.


In addition there are products which can be bought such as Cyber patrol and Net Nanny. Please use these products with caution as no filter can be 100% effective and are no substitute for parental involvement. If you are interested in purchasing a filtering product there is an excellent database which lists all the leading filtering products and allows you to search for the specific filtering features you are interested in. http://www.getnetwise.org/


Computer Access

Simply positioning the computer somewhere in your home which is not too remote is an effective way of ensuring that online use is not too private. Choosing a family room or home office ensures that other family members will be aware of what is going on and may discourage undesirable activities. This strategy is less appropriate for more mobile computing devices,


Conversation

Spend time discussing both the good aspects of digital activities and the problems with your children. This has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of things getting out of hand. It will give you a chance to set out the rules and be more aware of what the popular activities of your children and their friends. Please feel free to contact the school if you would like to discuss matters further.


eSafety at Oxford


References


A guide for parents from the BBC
http://www.bbc.co.uk/chatguide/parents/index.shtml

Shambles’ list of safe search engines
http://www.shambles.net/safesearching/

Free Anti-virus software
AVG located at http://free.grisoft.com/doc/5390/lng/us/tpl/v5#avg-anti-virus-free

Microsoft’s Online Safety site
http://www.youngpeoplesafeonline.com/

InSafe:
http://www.saferinternet.org/ww/en/pub/insafe/index.htm