Kids and web keep police busy
Parents are being urged to get to grips with what their children are doing online, amid reports that potential risks to young people from the internet are overtaking drugs and alcohol as a community concern.
A ‘‘huge increase’’ in the number of people seeking help with internet safety meant it had become the biggest issue police were now going into schools and holding parent information evenings to talk about, Richmond-based school community officer Constable Charlotte Donaldson said.
‘‘Everybody is craving this help. I feel like there’s been a shift in society.
‘‘Not every kid is drinking, not every kid is doing drugs, but every single kid is online. And that’s the biggest risk facing our young people today, I believe.’’
One of the main online threats highlighted by students was from potential ‘‘predators’’ on social media apps and computer games, Donaldson said. ‘‘It starts with friendly conversation about the game and then it changes.’’
It was important to emphasise to children that they should always know who they were talking to online, she said.
Access to sexual content is the online risk Kiwi parents are most worried about, research released
‘‘[Parents] need to actually actively monitor . . . what their kids are doing online.’’
Constable Charlotte Donaldson, school community officer
by Netsafe last month suggests. One in five parents of children aged 9-17 said their child had been exposed to sexually explicit content online in the last 12 months, citing the main reasons as it having ‘‘popped up’’ on the screen or device, curiosity, and accidental access.
Parents could block access to inappropriate material by installing filtering systems directly on their child’s device, or at a router level, Netsafe said. But they should view filtering systems as just one part of the solution, director of education and engagement, Sean Lyons advised.
‘‘No filtering software is 100 per cent effective in preventing access to content, so talking to children about the types of content they may come across on the internet is one of the best ways to ensure they stay safe online.
‘‘Important topics to discuss could include what to do if they
see something online that upsets them or makes them feel uncomfortable, what information to keep private online, and how to interact with online friends safely.’’
While there was no silver bullet for protecting children from potential online threats, parents could do a lot to minimise the risks by monitoring their children’s internet use, Donaldson said.
She advised against parents simply handing devices over to their children. ‘‘They need to actually actively monitor what their kids are looking at, and what their kids are doing online. It’s about knowing what applications our kids are using.’’
Apps like Spyzie and OurPact were also available to download, and allowed parents to monitor text and social media messages their kids sent, and set time restrictions so children couldn’t stay up all hours on their devices.
Donaldson recommended that parents not let kids take devices into their bedrooms, and have a computer in a space where parents could see it.
Communication was also key, she said. ‘‘If we can have those open lines of communications with our kids and have that discussion with them so they know that if something like that pops up to speak up about it.
‘‘If they’ve seen it, they’ve seen it, but at least we can communicate with them and explain to them what’s going on.’’