Police offer some tips to protect children using internet

As Ontario joins countries around the world to mark Safer Internet Day, it is a reminder to parents that they play an important role in ensuring their children use the internet safely," said In­spector Mark Allen of the OPP Crime Prevention Section.

"About 94 per cent of Cana­dian children are regular users of the internet at home. They use the Internet for everything from homework research, to gaming, to instant messaging. Police, parents and the com­mu­nity must work together to raise awareness and promote safe use of the internet, particularly among youth," added Allen.

While the internet provides learning opportunities, it also opens the door to the potential exploitation of children, in­clud­ing cyber bullying and online threats. Parents should be aware of what sites their children are accessing and monitor their internet use. A United States survey found that 66 per cent of all young internet users have been expos­ed to pornography online by accident.

There are numerous websites that provide parents with internet safety information, including sites with pledges of safe use con­tracts and youth (www.inter­net­101.ca). Parents should ac­cess those sites to educate themselves on the safe prac­tices of Internet use.

Parents should discuss the potential dangers of the internet with their children and educate them on how to handle situa­tions if they arise. Here are some steps parents can take to protect their children:

– be involved and know your child’s online activity;

–   keep the computer in an open area of the home;

– remind children to protect their passwords; encourage them not to share passwords with friends;

– use caution with web cams, unplug web cams when they’re not in use;

– be sure of whom they are talking to before allowing them to turn on a web cam;

– make sure children are cautious with what they post online;

– know their online friends the same way a parent would know friends in real life.

"We can’t prevent what we are not aware of," Allen said. "Parents need to know what risks exist in order to support their children as they learn and play in the online world."

The OPP’s Crime Preven­tion Section has tip sheets for parents and child­ren relating to safe inter­net use. Visit the OPP website at www.opp.ca.