Monitoring a child’s access to the internet and social networking sites, through a computer or smart phone is not an invasion of a child’s right to privacy. It is a parental and constitutional obligation to protect children from harm, says Dawn Coleman-Malinga, senior state advocate at the National Prosecuting Authority’s Sexual Offences and Community Affairs Unit.
She points out that free pictures we’re posting on the internet are aiding a trend among paedophiles and child pornographers to superimpose images of children’s faces to create seemingly fresh content which is in demand and perpetuates the abuse of children.
“About 88% of self-generated, sexually explicit online content has been taken from its original source and uploaded elsewhere on the internet without the original generator’s permission.
Thora Mansfield at the Open Door Crisis Care Centre, says that children are lured.
“Grooming”, is often a slow-moving, sinister process that draws a child. A molester will get to know your child, often posing as a peer.
They collect information getting to know the child’s needs and inhibitions before initiating abuse. They may offer tuitions, give the child a sense that they are special and loved, only to be able to gain confidence and have them in isolation.”
Dr Monique Emser at the University of the Free State says apart from scary statistics, the advancing trends are incredibly disturbing.
“Ever increasing levels of violence and decreasing ages of victims have been observed in child sexual abuse material.
“Trends include ‘hurtcore’, which are explicitly hurtful images of young children, that feed a fetish for brutal sexual abuse by offering live, customised, streaming as well as ‘virtual’, morphed/ blended images stolen off social media sites.”
Coleman-Malinga says children should be made to understand that it is the danger from child predators in cyberspace that is the reason for monitoring their access to the internet and social networking sites and not any distrust of them. Here is how:
If your child is still a minor and you’ve given them a cellphone it is your responsibility to ensure they’re viewing age appropriate material online and to protect them from cyber predators.
* Be watchful if your child spends many hours on the computer. Be aware of internet addiction – set firm time limits and rules for internet use.
* Question your child if they shut down the computer or close or switch the computer screen when someone enters the computer room.
* Be careful if your child is secretive about what he or she is doing on the internet.
* If your child is behaving differently to how he or she behaved before being able to access the internet he or she may be in cyber danger.
* Limit the amount of time that your child spends in chat rooms and warn them to stick to age appropriate chat rooms.
* Be wary if your child receives many telephone calls, especially long-distance calls, from people not known to anyone else in the family or is unwilling to reveal the identity of people he or she is talking to on the phone or in chat rooms.
* It is a red flag if your child starts receiving gifts from people unknown to the family, and has pictures of people, especially of the opposite sex, unknown to the family on the computer.
* A computer for a child’s use should be located in a common family room and never in a child’s bedroom.
* Ensure that a computer for use by a child is fitted with all available safety and filtering software and that such software is regularly updated – paedophiles and internet-pornographers are aware of such safety and filtering software and are constantly improving their technologies to bypass such software.
* Bookmark sites that are child-safe to minimise a child’s “surfing” and mistyped URLs – a child searching for “lego” but mistypes “legs” instead will end up in hundreds of pornographic sites – and avoid sites that are not moderated to prevent such sites being used by child predators.
* A young child should not have an e-mail address separate from that of the family or a parent.
* Check telephone bills and credit card statements for unusual charges.
* Warn children that sending pictures of themselves via the internet or cellphones to anyone they meet online could result in more than increasing their vulnerability to child abusers lurking online – it could amount to the serious offence of creating and distributing child pornography.
* An important key to minimising the risk of children’s exposure to potentially harmful and disturbing materials is to raise the general public awareness that those who provide and allow children’s access to the internet, via laptops and cellphones, as well as television, should realise that this access presents opportunities and risks and should therefore monitor their children’s access to chat rooms and make use of filters to block access to known websites that host potentially harmful content to children, as well as exercise parental control of television.
* Blocked sites and filters don’t always keep the baddies out of your kid’s online experience.
* A simple Google search can yield images you’d prefer for them not to see and internet slang – sometimes numbers instead of letters or acronyms – go undetected. It’s safe to say that if your child is up to something they don’t want you to know about, it can’t be good.
SAFETY FUNCTIONS AND APPS
Google and Youtube have safe functions for children. There is the newly launched Kiddle (which is Google for kids): www.kiddle.co.za
Other safety apps include:
Apps to monitor and control your child’s phone:
Filtering software can be programmed to block access to websites that contain material to which children should not be exposed. However, you must know that filtering software does not provide a hundred percent guarantee that a child will not stumble across unsuitable material. Examples of filtering software include:
Arm yourself with knowledge at:
Report paedophiles to 0800 148 148 or go to www.fpbprochild.org.za
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW
Familiarise yourself regularly with Google “internet slang dictionary” to ensure you understand internet speak and code. Here are a few examples:
* Paw: is short for parents are watching
* Pos: parents over shoulder
* Mos: Mom over shoulder
* Pir: Parents in the room
* CD9: Code 9, parents around
* 911/ P911: Parents around
* Pron: Porn
* ASL: Age sex location
* GNOC: Get naked on camera
* (L)mirl: Lets meet in real life
If your child is in a chat forum, join, too, and watch their profile to monitor the pictures and information they’re posting.
* It goes without saying that you should be your child’s friend on facebook. In fact, if they are on a device you’re paying for, you should be able to look through it. See who your child is befriending on-line. Often predators pose as peers when they are not.
* If your child has a blog for the world to read, surely you should be reading it, too.
* Google your child’s name, chat/screen name and cellphone number to see how much of personal information they are divulging on-line.