The search engines on the internet provide access to many sites on a given topic. Even when children are searching for ordinary everyday topics, it is possible that they might come across sites with information and/or images that could be harmful to them.
Children need to be warned about this and given a strategy of what to do if it occurs. At home they need to report it immediately to a parent.
At School ensure that your child reports the site to their teacher, pastoral head or to IT Services. The School attempts to block harmful sites, however, it is difficult to keep abreast of the most recent sites and site makers are canny about naming inappropriate sites names that you might consider harmless.
The sorts of material they may encounter are:
Sexually explicit material
- this could include graphic pictures and videos intended for adults;
- exposure to graphic pornography can cause emotional distress to children;
- if you become aware of any child pornography on-line, note any relevant details and report the matter to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). For more details see the section below – “Lodge complaints”.
Violent and disturbing images
- this could include such things as crash scenes and even mortuary sites;
- research has shown that violence in any form of screen media, that is, films, videos, television, computer games and the internet, can have a negative effect on children, particularly young children;
- for more information about the impact of media violence, see related topics on the Young Media Australia website [http://www.youngmedia.org.au] or call the Young Media Australia Helpline on 1800 700 357.
Making purchases or gambling online
- children can easily come across sites which encourage them to purchase goods on-line;
- on-line gambling. A credit card number is all it takes for someone to ‘play’;
- using 1900 numbers. Children can inadvertently accumulate very large telephone bills in a short space of time by accessing Internet Dialer numbers that transfer them to an overseas phone line.
Incorrect and inaccurate information
- children may believe that everything they see on the internet is factual;
- in fact, any person can put any information they like up on the internet and there is no guarantee that the information is accurate.
Inadvertently form ‘friendships’ with strangers
It is possible that children will come into contact with people who are pretending to be children but have other motives. There is a real danger that children may:
- come into contact with paedophiles;
- provide personal details to strangers;
- arrange to meet friends they have made on the internet without really knowing who they are;
- be harassed by email.
Become victims of cyberbullying
Cyberbullying is the use of online or mobile technology to harass or intimidate another person. Teasing, false rumours, fase messages and threats can be spread by email, in chatrooms, blogs, forums and mobile phone messages. Bullying can be done by groups or individuals who are able to remain anonymous.
Be subjected to advertising pressures
Once on the internet, children are likely to be subjected to unsolicited advertising. This could take the form of pop-up advertisements or ads embedded into particular websites. Such advertising often has bright colourful images and catchy phrases designed to put pressure on children to purchase goods on-line. A term for unsolicited advertising on the internet, the equivalent of junk mail in your letter box, is ‘spam’.
Risk their personal health through excessive use
The internet can become addictive. It is important that children do not use the internet to the exclusion of other developmentally appropriate tasks including, the need to be physically active.
Endanger their privacy
Some sites encourage children to join clubs and enter competitions. In so doing, they reveal their name and address and may become the target of unwelcome marketing and other material.
What’s inappropriate for a minor? That’s largely a matter of common sense and, depending on the age of their child, varies from parent to parent.
Risk and defence
Even if a minor isn’t looking for adult or violent material online, it’s sometimes easy to stumble across it simply by following search-engine or instant-message links. Scammers, meanwhile, often use pornographic pop-ups to lure users into clicking links that load malicious software. Parents often rely on content-blocking and filtering software to limit what kids can see, but be forewarned that older kids with computer skills are often adept at working around such controls