Protecting children in our digital age
By Terri Apter
while there is little compelling evidence that porn adversely influences adult behaviour, parents continue to have concerns about the material their children can access on the internet.
Here are some practical steps they can take towards restricting what's available:
- Report inappropriate material to the host website
- Require websites to state their e-safety policies before signing up to them
- Report any non-responsive websites to moderators
- Propose to social-networking sites that they have higher default privacy settings for children
For those parents who are comfortable imposing controls, a range of tools is available to manage access to the internet.
- Filtering systems, which block inappropriate material
- Parental monitoring systems
Learn how to use these safety mechanisms yourself – and don't be influenced when your child says, "No one else's parents do this". Above all, educate your children to protect themselves:
- Repeat basic ground rules about not clicking on pop-up sites
- Repeat basic ground rules about not giving personal details online
- Ensure that children know what to do when they have trouble closing an uninvited site
- Talk about what will happen if they break these ground rules
- Pool information within the family: siblings learn a great deal about internet use from one another
Never avoid the issue and try to discuss important topics with children in-depth:
- Explain why you are worried about certain internet material
- Show willingness to talk about even embarrassing things
- Look at everyday images in magazines, newspapers and television with them and explore their implicit messages
- Encourage reflection about whether such people are portrayed with respect, or whether they are objectified
- Listen calmly, and show willingness to hear what your child has to say on these matters
Dr Terri Apter is a psychologist, writer and senior tutor at Newnham College, Cambridge. Her most recent book is 'The Sister Knot'