Cyber safety: Is your child safe?

OUR children are more comfortable with computers and their applications than most of us parents. As with anything else, with increasing use comes competence and the ability to use it effectively for one's purposes. If we parents are not on, for example Facebook or Friendster, we will never be able to comprehend its potential for use and misuse (leading to abuse).

One parent's experience

calling_youRecently, Canadian author Ann Douglas recounted a scary situation encountered by a parent. Her daughter's online activities had resulted in a strange man calling the home. That was the point when the parent woke up to the fact that her standard child monitoring methods did not work. She had placed the computer in a common area where she could keep an eye on what her daughter was doing online, and discussed with her on the danger of giving out personal information to anyone she might meet in cyberspace, etc - all standard online safety recomendations.

The reality check was the strange phone calls she had happened to intercept. Her daughter had in fact been talking on the phone with a man she had met online, an online relationship that was eight months old!

Tell-tale signs

What were the warning indicators which made sense only in hindsight?

  • Her child always had multiple windows open on the computer, and she would quickly flip windows every time her mother walked by.
  • She was in the habit of setting up new webmail accounts on a regular basis, apparently a means of communication in the online relationship.

Jane Tallim is the education coordinator of Media Awareness Network, a Canadian parenting resource site. She says, "Parents seem to forget that the Internet and adolescent hormones make a pretty potent mix. Kids know all about 'stranger danger' and the rules they're supposed to be following online, but once they hit the Internet, those adolescent hormones kick in and they can find themselves making some poor decisions."


Key findings on kids' online behaviour