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What Is Online Safety?
Communication technology and the Internet effects all of us on a daily basis. At work, at school and at home we are surrounded by equipment and devices that connects us and allows us to communicate with the rest of the world, 24 hours a day.
In 2011 77% of homes had an Internet connection. In 2016 this increased to 89%.
But while access to more information and easier communications has so many positive points, it also has some downsides.
There are always people who will find new ways to use new technology to do horrible and illegal things. There are so many people all around the world posting so many messages, creating pages or websites and sending emails that it makes it impossible to keep track of everything being done. Secondly the internet is global and there are no global laws that cover every country in the world. Each country has their own laws about the Internet and so what one country classes as illegal another country may not. Here in the UK the government recognised the dangers and not only do we have laws covering the many uses of the Internet, but they also setup CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre) which work to keep our children safe online. There are also organisations such as the UK Safer Internet Centre.
But the best form of protection is knowledge, and that is where online safety comes in. Knowing what the dangers are and what the possible signs to look out for are essential. We also need to know how to keep ourselves safe online and to take action immediately if things do go wrong.
What To Do?
When it first becomes clear there is an online safety problem at home it is easy to feel scared, shame, embarrassment and that you are alone and unsure which way to turn or what to do. This is far from the truth.
The first thing is DO NOT PANIC. Do not rush into things by deleting messages or texts as these can sometimes be used as important evidence If the problem is related to bullying going on at school, or cyberbullying using a schools ICT system or online resources then talk to the school directly and they will be able to help.
If the problem is websites or people not related to the school then it makes it difficult for the school to do anything directly, but they can still help you with advice if you feel more comfortable speaking to them. Alternatively you can contact CEOP (http://ceop.police.uk) Their website offers excellent advice as well as links to other agencies that can help with things like if you have come across something illegal online and wish to report it or would like someone of your child’s own age to speak to them and mentor them on the dangers of e-safety.
Signs To Look Out For
Some of the issues concerning online safety, such as bullying and grooming can cause a lot of emotional turmoil to individuals.
You know your children best, even as they get older and hormones turn them into moody teenagers. But there are times when you instinctively know when there is a change in your child’s normal character or behaviour. There are important signs that you need to look out for. It could be just one of them, or a combination of them. But seeing just one of these signs and acting on it could stop a small problem becoming a major incident.
Signs of emotional turmoil.
Mood swings – they might try and hide their problems by pretending to be happy, but the stress and worry can make it hard to keep up the appearance and their mood might suddenly change.
Reluctance to socialize – they may become withdrawn and avoid contact with friends or family. Spending more time in places away from others, such as in the bedroom.
Lack of sleep – worry and stress will keep them awake at night. Look for signs of tiredness or lack of energy.
Changes in eating – this could change drastically either way. They might stop eating which will result in loss of weight and energy, or they might start binge eating instead and suddenly gain weight.
Loss of confidence – they are suddenly reluctant to do things they enjoyed, such as texting, using social networking sites or instant messaging programs.
Affecting school/work – there could be a drop in the quality of their school work or behaviour at school or productivity at work. It could manifest as truancy from school or reluctance to go to work.
Feelings of guilt – as their confidence disappears it could be replaced with feelings of guilt as they feel that the events unfolding are their fault.
Feelings of suicide – if they feel trapped by the circumstances, or feel that there is no help available then they may start to talk about “feeling alone”, “ending it all” or talk about suicide.
If you have even the slightest fear that someone is displaying one of these signs then seek help. It is better to be wrong than to allow someone to suffer and think they have no options or help and allow them to spiral into deeper depression.