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Keep kids safe online this Christmas

Safe computing advice for parents

Children on the internet

The Which? Complete Guide to Protect Your PC has been launched, highlighting the dangers to children from cyber bullying and online predators – and the steps parents can take to help their children use the internet safely.

A report from the communications watchdog, Ofcom, found that many parents believe their children are safer online than they actually are, when in fact they should do more to monitor their children’s online usage, in particular while they’re using social networking sites.

The report also highlights a gap in parent’s knowledge of social networking as only 30% of parents knew that their children’s online profiles could be viewed by anyone.

The Which? Complete Guide to Protect Your PC editor Matthew Bath, said : ‘Children are often streets ahead of adults when it comes to using the internet and parents need to wise up fast. If you’re buying your kids a computer this Christmas, make sure you know how to keep them safe online. Parental control software can make all the difference.’

The major social networking sites, such as Bebo, MySpace and Facebook, are designed for those aged 13 and above, but because there are no formal security controls, younger children can sign up to them if they simply lie about their age. But while youngsters may be confident with the technology, they may not be aware of the dangers and importance of protecting private details such as phone numbers.

Read Which? reviews of the top social networking sites

There’s a huge range of parental control such packages on the market, many of them free. The Which? Complete Guide to Protect Your PC shows how to install and use K9’s free Web Protection software. Another popular package is Sentry Parental Controls, which has web-based monitoring tools that let parents see what their children are doing on the home computer by logging in from any web browser.

Top social networking tips for kids

  • Keep it private. Your pages may be searched or accessed by people that you don’t know, so it’s best to keep your profile pages private.
  • Report negative behaviour. Know how to stop troublesome people from leaving messages on your profile, and report any bullies to the website administrators.
  • Think twice before you post content. Even if your profile is private, messages, video and photos you post to other forums may be seen by people you don’t know.
  • Be honest. If you’re under 18, it’s best to be honest about your age when signing up otherwise older people may try to contact you.
  • Never list your phone number. Even if you just send your number to mates, people who want it will have other ways to obtain it.

The Which? Complete Guide to Protect Your PC, is available from Thursday 11 December in selected WH Smith, Borders, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Asda stores for £6.99.

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