The Internet and social media are part of the lives of many people and provide them with the opportunity to meet and communicate with people from all over the world. However, online technology and new modes of communication have also been used by predators and sex offenders to exploit and harm children.
While the Internet generally offers great opportunities for children to learn and play, there are some areas of cyberspace that are not appropriate. Parents need to ensure children are actively supervised when using the Internet, particularly time spent chatting online.
Steps for improving your child's safety
- Be aware of the programs and files children use.
- Consider installing filtering software on computers used by young people.
- Be aware of the programs and files that are on your family's computers.
- Place the computer in a public area of the home, such as a living room.
- Ensure you are able to access your child's email and randomly check the contents.
- Check your phone bill for unusual outgoing calls or consider using a 'caller ID' device to identify incoming calls.
- Discuss online safety with your child's school, public library or anywhere that you believe your child accesses the Internet.
- Make sure children are aware of some of the issues involved with spending time on the Internet.
- Show children what sites they can go to and what information they can send out.
- Sit down with your children and discuss the issues.
The following may be signs that your child has been targeted by an online predator:
- You find pornography on your child's computer.
- Your child is receiving phone calls from people you do not know or is calling numbers you do not recognise.
- Your child is spending a large amount of time on the Internet.
- Your child is receiving gifts or mail from people you do not know.
- When you enter the room your child changes the screen or turns the computer off.
- Your child is becoming withdrawn or displaying behavioural problems.
Advice for your children
It is advisable to tell your children:
- Not to send a picture of themselves to someone they do not know.
- Never place a full profile and picture of themselves anywhere on the Internet. If using a Facebook page or similar, ensure your child blocks everyone's access to the page and only allows friends to have access.
- Never give out personal information including their name, home address, phone number or school.
- Never arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone they have chatted with on the Internet.
Visit ACORN - The Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN) website provides education and prevention information to the public. ACORN is also a secure reporting service for cybercrime incidents that may be in breach of Australian law. Common types of cybercrime include attacks on computer systems (hacking), online scams or fraud, identity theft, online stalking (including cyberbullying) an illegal or prohibited online content. Certain reports will be directed to Australian law enforcement and government agencies for further investigation.
ACORN does not accept reports relating to emergencies or online sex offences against children (including child exploitation material). These incidents should be reported to you local police station, Crime Stoppers, or if there is any concern about a person's safety to Triple Zero (000).
Visit Cybersmart, a national cybersafety and cybersecurity education program managed by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), as part of the Australian Government's commitment to cybersafety. Their website is specifically designed to meet the needs of its target audiences of children, young people, parents, teachers and library staff.