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Unlocking some interesting myths about e-Safety

Interesting myths
Greg Johnson Greg Johnson

It can be difficult to verify stories that circulate regarding the safety of children online.

EU Kids Online surveyed 25,000 children and their parents across Europe. Their research revealed some interesting myths associated with potential risks facing children online.

Professor Sonia Livingstone, who headed the project said: “Often people don’t appreciate that the digital world brings both risks and opportunities for young people, or that risk isn’t automatically a bad thing as it may give children a chance to learn how to cope and become resilient. It’s only by understanding and balancing these things that we’ll be able to give children the practical help they need to get the best from the Internet.”

She also added: “The work our team of researchers has done offers governments, parents and teachers the most comprehensive insight yet into how to help.”

Here are some interesting myths about e-Safety

Digital natives know it all

Only 36 percent of 9-16-year-olds agreed that they know more about the Internet than their parents.

Everyone creates their own content

The above study revealed that only one in five children have recently used a file-sharing site, whereas only half that number have started a blog. This means most children use the Internet for ready-made content.

Children under the age of 13 cannot use social networking sites

Even though many social networking sites have set up age limits for signing up, the research shows that age limits don’t work – 38 percent of 9-12-year-olds have an online profile.

Online Pornography is popular among young people

This myth is partly created by media hype says the study, as only one in seven children viewed sexual images online.

Bullies are villains

Interestingly, the study showed that 60 percent who bully (online or offline) have been bullied in the past. Bullies and victims are often the same people.

People you meet on the Internet are strangers

Children are familiar with most of their online contacts. Only nine percent met new online contacts offline. The majority didn’t go alone and just one percent had a bad experience.

Offline risks migrate online

Only children who lead risky offline lives are more likely to expose themselves to danger online. Similarly, it can’t be assumed that those who are low-risk offline are safe online either.

Placing the computer in the living room will help to keep children safe

This advice is out of date, as children can easily go online at a friend’s house or on a smartphone. It is advisable for parents to talk to their children about their Internet habits.

Children can get around safety software

Surprisingly, one in three 11-16-year-olds say they can change filter preferences. Most of them also said that the actions their parents take to limit their Internet activity are helpful.

In the words of Stephen Hawking: “We are all now connected by the Internet, like neurons in a giant brain.”

Would you like to find out more about e-Safety? Contact Securus today.

Best practices for safe social networking

Social networking
Mark Kingham Mark Kingham

Social media is a wonderful tool to help stay connected with family and friends. It has bridged distances and brought the world closer as never before. The best feature of this kind of connectivity is the pleasure derived from being able to share our lives with others and feel involved in theirs. However, as with many innovations, social networking comes with its own set of challenges, which is why moderation and caution need to be exercised at all times.

Social networking sites are online platforms where users can create a personal profile and interact with others on the same site. The idea is to connect with friends by sharing personal information and that is where, knowingly or otherwise, we can become vulnerable. The virtual world often encourages us to reveal much more about ourselves than we would if we were meeting someone in person. This makes it important to observe basic rules and guidelines to stay safe while making optimal use of technology.

Here are some of the best practices for safe social networking. These will ensure you make use of social media in the most positive way and help to eliminate risks associated with it.

  • Never disclose too much information about yourself such as contact details, your address or your daily schedule.
  • Go through the terms and conditions even if they might seem tiresome to read. Check out if there are adequate privacy measures in place and change any default settings to those that provide you with maximum security. Ideally, your profile should be visible only to your friends, and not to friends of friends.
  • Disable the geolocation feature so that details about your location are never included in your posts.
  • Make sure you are aware how to block unwanted users from connecting with you and accessing your content.
  • Pick a user name that is neutral and protect your account by using strong passwords that include upper and lower case letters, symbols and digits. It is always a good idea to change passwords regularly.
  • Watch out for any posts in which you are tagged by your friends and for any comments that might reveal unnecessary personal details about your location, routine and activities. Never post any holiday dates that might end up as a valuable resource for a burglar.
  • Guard against fake friend requests and posts from groups asking you to visit and ‘like’ their pages. Be wary of strangers on social media just as you would in the real world.
  • While commenting on posts, make it a point to remain neutral and never get into any arguments on any sensitive topics that might be construed as offensive.
  • Ensure that you have installed internet security programs on your computer and that all anti-virus software is up to date. As “malware” or malicious code spreads via the social network, be wary of links posted on your friend’s profile pages. Do not click on obscured URLs without verifying them (by using URL preview services such as expandmyurl.com or longurlplease.com) first. Once you have determined the site as genuine, use a bookmark to access that site in future.
  • Guard against hijacking of your account by looking out for any warning signs – for example, passwords not working or any logins into your account at times when you were not online. You can set up alerts that send you an email if your account was accessed from a different location, or a different device from the one you usually use.

A little prudence will go a long way in keeping your social networking account private and safe. Keep the above steps in mind while you enjoy communicating with your friends, no matter where you are in the world.

 

Help students differentiate between positive and negative peer influence

Peer influence
Mark Kingham Mark Kingham

Children spend many of their waking hours at school or engaged in extra-curricular activities and in doing so, they foster bonds with their peers. A recent article in The Daily Telegraph pointed out that a child’s friends have a significant impact on their behaviour. It further stated that popular culture, friends, and street gangs had a greater influence than their genetic make-up or the lessons they learnt at home.

With such a great influence exerted by peers, it is important for parents and teachers to safeguard children from steering towards bad behaviour. Illicit drug abuse is a particular concern. Although statistics show there has been a fall in the prevalence of drug use among students, the problem still exists. Research  also suggests that boys are generally more susceptible to drug use than girls.

In an earlier article, we have discussed how schools can create a safe and drug-free environment and the onus lies with teachers to educate students about good and negative peer influence.

Students need to be accepted at school and mix with friends. They tend to be influenced by the attitudes and lifestyles of their peers. It is normal for them to do things in their social circle which help them feel valued.  However, it is not wise to follow one’s friends blindly.

Peer influence can have negative effects

In their need to be accepted by their friends, students can often indulge in behaviours they are not comfortable with.  At a young and vulnerable age, they may fail to understand the impact of giving in to peer pressure. Help them to look out for the following signs:

Wrong decisions

Explain to children that when they feel compelled to do something they dislike, it is a bad sign. An example could be taking up a hobby or activity just because their peers do, without much thought to where their own interests lie.

Cultivation of bad habits

Peer pressure is powerful. It can force young people to do things they are not comfortable with.  It can bring about a change in attitude and lifestyle. Vey often, peer influence is the main reason why students take up drug use, alcohol, and smoking.

Loss of individuality

Peer influence may compel students to follow everything their peers do, adopting their fashion sense, hairstyle, and so on. This can lead to a child losing their originality.

Peer influence can be positive too!

Peer influence can bring about positive changes.

Adopting good habits

Peers can help others change for the better. For example, knowing that their friends are avid readers can encourage students to read and people who play sports very often inspire their friends to join in.

Losing bad habits

Peer influence can also deter other students from experimenting with drugs. Students may be persuaded to turn over a new leaf when their peers frown upon their bad habits or tell them about the damage drugs can cause.

The bottom line

Students should be made aware that the difference between positive and negative peer influence is all about the outcome and intention. If a student is convinced to do something which turns out to be good for them, the peer influence is positive. And if they are pressurised to make an unhealthy choice, the peer influence is negative.

Similarly, students need to be made aware of digital peer influence. The principles of offline peer influence apply to the online world as well.

To help protect students from negative influences online, get in touch with us today!

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