Kids and web keep po­lice busy

Nelson Mail - - Front Page - Katy Jones [email protected]

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.’’

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