There are always latent dangers online for children on the web and this is a source of concern for parents.

Malvern SAPS corporate communications officer, Radhika Marimuthu stated that parents fear these potential dangers but with a little foresight, these risks can be circumvented.

“Generation gaps do exist between child and parent. It is more often than not that the parent is technology shy which is an impediment. The question then begets of parents as to how do they take care of their children’s safety in a cyber world that they know and understand lesser than the children. And how can parents surmount sometimes misplaced fears and threats so parents can assure their children’s safety online,” said Marimuthu.

Marimuthu stated that the starting premise is to understand the threats, risks and challenges online. “The threats have evolved. A few years ago, the culture was basically search oriented. Now the age of the users have fallen in the category of young adults, teenagers and a percentage of young children.

“The explicit visuals of sex, drugs, violence and cults draw children to these sites and are damaging to their minds, therefore parents have to start recognising these threats and working on them. Social networking also reaches a wide majority and their impact on the child’s mind can cause irreparable damage. The large hand of social networking also leaves children open to sexual predators, online predators, misrepresentations and becoming prey to online impersonators.

“Therefore, open communication between parent and child is needed to recognise when this happens and try and stop a bag situation from growing to worse,” said Marimuthu.

Marimuthu stated that parents should resort to traditional parenting measures which entail stranger danger, parent-house rules and constant communication. “Educators and the police also play an important role in imposing safety, security and strangers as a no-go
zone. Where a child is more computer savvy than a parent, that parent can involve the child in teaching them about how the internet works and what surfing and downloading entails without encroaching on the child’s space.

“Installation of software can help to web filter in order to prevent your child from viewing adult content. Program blocking also prevents your child from downloading content from the internet that is not age appropriate. Email filtering lets parents censor certain kinds of content from their child’s inbox. It also blocks emails from unwelcome addresses.

“Further, there is video filtering which blocks unsavoury material from sites. In all, these measures are used to protect the child and create a safe environment for the child online,”concluded Marimuthu.