Debate - Rajmi Manatunga:
Keep your child safe on the internet - dangerous sexual predators are online
The internet is great and it offers great opportunities but at the same time it poses a great threat as well.
With ever increasing amounts of materials on the net like websites, images, videos and activities such as chatting, searching etc dealings on the net carefully is crucial, but how can parents help children be safe on the net?
Children can interact and communicate with friends and people from all over the world on the net.
Chatting over the internet can be done with a group of people in a chat room, or with the person you are playing an online game. As well as being able to add your comments to a conversation in a chat room or online game between a number of people, it is also usually possible to chat privately to one person in these environments.
There are however, potential risks in communicating to people that you don’t know, and unfortunately some children have been hurt having gone to meet the ‘friends’ they have made online.
Adults with a sexual interest in children have used chat rooms and other interactive areas online to make contact with and befriend children, and persuaded and manipulated them to meet up where they have been abused.
There have also been cases of children being bullied or threatened online in chat environments.
Children use search engines to find things on the Internet. In addition to the incredible positives and benefits that search brings, for example helping to research for school and on their interests, there is a risk to children searching the net getting exposed to material that may be potentially harmful to them, or even material that is illegal.
Parents need to know what current good practices are in relation to child safety and be aware of what they can do to help their children to surf on the internet in a safer environment.
What can Parents do to help Children on line and in Chat Rooms?
In early stages of the internet, blocking content seemed like the ideal means of protecting children from potentially unsuitable material. However, it subsequently became apparent that most such programs do not block all material which parents may expect to be blocked.
It is stressed that these programs are far from a perfect answer and products should be investigated thoroughly, including the maker’s policies and blocking criteria, prior to children’s use of same.
Now there are computer monitoring software packages that enable parents to watch as much or as little of their children’s computer and Internet activity as they see fit.
Parents can keep their children safe from Internet predators by monitoring computer activity, including keystrokes (including chat room dialogue), programs used and sites visited on the Internet.
It also captures screen shots of what children have been viewing. There are functions that enable parents to block access to specific web sites which they deem inappropriate, offensive, or dangerous.
There are a number of things you can do as a parent to keep your children safe on the internet and chat rooms;
Learn about the technology - try to gain an understanding of the Internet and how chat rooms operate
Understand the jargon - discover the terms children are using. Be able to talk to children in the language they understand
Try a chat room yourself - Experience first hand what chat rooms are and how they work. Remember they are considered wonderful tools by millions of users
Rules, rights and responsibilities - set up a plan for effective use of the internet and chat rooms at home encourage children to make the rules with you so they have ownership of them, discuss what rights all family members have when using the Internet and what responsibilities go with these rights. At all times be positive about the Internet.
Privacy - Discuss this with your children. Do not single out online chatting as the only place where privacy should be maintained, as it should be maintained in all online activities
Talk to other parents at school or in your neighbourhood about the positive and potential dangers of children using chat rooms. Sharing experiences with others can often uncover Internet safety ideas you may not even thought about
Find out about your child’s online access at home and schools - Are there adequate safeguards in place?
Do the schools have Acceptable Usage Policies before they let children use these technologies? If your children’s school has one in place, go over the details with them and his or her teachers.
Use Internet filters as a technological tool to help you protect your children online. Filtering software can restrict times when the Internet can be accessed and also restrict what is viewed and downloaded.
Use parental monitoring software to keep track of exactly what your children are doing online. There are many programs available which will let parents see every email, chat room transcript, instant messaging transcript, website and more that is typed into a computer.
While some people may claim that this is an invasion of privacy, it is important that parents seek a balance that is acceptable to their family values and rules.
Check for online resources - there are many places on the Internet which can help you keep up with the latest technologies
Know how to report issues and concerns - Know to whom and how you can report any criminal or suspect behavior. Remaining silent about suspected trouble can often lead to more problems further on, so it is best that you act on any suspicions.
Show interest in how children are using the Internet and provide them with valuable and relevant guidance
The Government should enact suitable laws, guide lines and internet advisory guide lines and WebPages with the intention of providing a safer environment to the community about managing children’s access to the Internet.
Some initiatives that the Government should implement should include; active monitoring of online material, commissioning research and development into technological means to prevent access to overseas hosted Internet content and to facilitate adult verification prior to accessing overseas content, operating telephone advisory service (‘hotline’- (phone, fax, email) for “instant help with Internet safety”.), provide assistance in lodging complaints with authorities.
The Government should also take immediate action to enact laws and regulate the activities of Internet Service Providers (ISP) and Internet Content Hosts (ICH). Internet censorship laws can be implemented to regulate the activities of ordinary Internet users and content providers.
The censorship regime can be “complaints based”. There should be no openings or loopholes for political establishments to abuse the freedom of speech or to take undue advantage of the process to take political advantages.
It should not be illegal for Internet Service Providers (ISP) and Internet Content Hosts (ICH) to make available/host any particular content online unless the content has been determined to be “prohibited content” or “potential prohibited content” by a regulatory body. Content should become “prohibited content” only after it has been complained about to the regulatory body and determined to be “prohibited content” by the regulatory body.
However materials involving child pornography should be illegal under specific laws and should be also be under the Crimes Act with prison sentences.
Child Pornography/Child Abuse Material
The Parliament should enact specific laws making it a criminal offence to use a carriage service (e.g. an Internet service, a telephone service, etc) to access (or distribute, etc) child pornography material and/or child abuse material.
Accessing and/or obtaining material that is illegal to possess via the Internet
The terms in the laws should be interpreted and be used in a way that would include accessing/viewing accidentally or otherwise. The onus of proving accidental use should be on the user.
Online material generally cannot be viewed until it has been downloaded to the user’s computer and most web browsers automatically place a copy in the cache on the user’s computer hard drive.
In some countries laws appear to attempt to address the possibility of accidental, unintentional viewing of illegal material by using terms such as “knowingly possess”, and some laws do not.
Even in cases where the law refers to knowing possession, it may be difficult for an Internet user/defendant who unintentionally viewed illegal material to successfully refute the prosecution’s allegations that they had knowingly obtained possession of illegal material.
In conclusion it should be noted that while children need a certain amount of privacy, they also need parental involvement to protect them from harmful material and people on the internet. The Government has a great role to play in this regard and immediate action should be taken.
The writer is a resident of Australia and is practising as an Australian Solicitor / Barrister. He can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Curbing the porn menace
The Internet is so widespread now that even the remotest villages have at least one kiosk offering Net access. As the term World Wide Web implies, the Internet enables us to go all over the world and learn new things every day without ever leaving our seat. It is useful for everyone from students to retired workers.
But the Net does have a darker side. There are thousands of pornographic sites on the Web, which can be freely accessed by anyone with an Internet connection. If not supervised properly, it is all too easy for children to access such explicit content.
This is precisely what the Government intends to prevent. President Mahinda Rajapaksa recently instructed the Telecom Regulatory Commission to block porn sites, in a bid to save the younger generation.
But can this step alone curb the proliferation of pornographic literature? There are thousands of porn books, magazines and DVDs in circulation. Shouldn’t these sales points be also raided? Some cinemas show almost X-rated movies which have apparently been passed by the censors. It is no secret that many schoolboys, some of them still in shorts, watch these so-called ‘adults only’ movies.
What more should be done to end this scourge? Or are present laws adequate to deal with it? Send in your views in less than 1,500 words on ‘Curbing the porn menace’ to Daily News Debate, 35, D.R. Wijewardene Mawatha, Colombo or email email@example.com on or before August 26, 2008.