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How Dangerous Is The Internet, Really?

Let's separate facts from fiction.

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Last year, a former government adviser described the internet as a "lawless jungle too dangerous for children to use".

With more and more devices connecting to the web than ever before, all it can take is one wrong click to lead to a scary situation. As a parent, it can be increasingly challenging to find out what you can do to keep your children safe online.

Here, we'll cover four key issues that could affect your kids online, to guide you in helping them use the internet safely.

1.

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Children are three times more likely to use the internet to find out about sex than ask their parents.

It's an uncomfortable topic, that much is undeniable, so it seems that many children actively seek out information that could lead them to inappropriate content. In addition, more than half of kids are worried about innocently stumbling upon something unsuitable.

Every child (and parent) is different.

It may sound obvious, but what you think is inappropriate will probably differ from your child's view and that of other parents too. Parental control tools are useful, and can prevent an innocent search leading to an upsetting online experience, but they aren't the complete answer.

The key is having an honest conversation.

Talk to your child about what they do online and what they might find. Be calm and reassuring. Let them know that they won't get in trouble if they do find something that upsets them and agree on some ground rules together.

2.

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Cyberbullying is on the rise.

It is sad to think that cyberbullying is increasingly accepted as an inevitable part of being online. Like any form of bullying, cyberbullying can be horrible for the children involved and can be much harder to get away from.

No parent wants to think they've raised a bully.

But a child may find themselves doing so without even realising. Most children who have posted a mean or cruel comment don't see their actions as bullying, often because they can't see the hurt that they've caused. Make sure they understand the impact before they post something online.

Listen without judging.

Children who are being cyberbullied often find it hard to talk about it, but it can be an upsetting and difficult subject for parents too, whether their child is the victim or the aggressor. If you think your child is involved in cyberbullying, it's important to keep an open mind, avoid appearing judgmental, and most of all, stay calm.

3.

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Nearly three in ten friends of children aged 12-15 aren't personally known to them.

It's easy to conceal or assume a different identity online, and some areas of the web, such as online gaming, will connect children with other users that they've never met before from all over the world.

However, in the majority of cases, child grooming begins offline.

It may be at a family or social gathering, before the groomer uses the internet to further build the relationship. While grooming isn't common, more often than not, it's not a stranger and often children won't realise what's happening as groomers use personal details to create an agreeable persona.

Older children especially can be very protective over their online relationships.

If they feel you're interfering, it can push them further away. The best way to prevent grooming is a combination of effective privacy settings and an open dialogue. If something doesn't feel right, the most important thing is the child has someone they trust that they feel comfortable talking to.

4.

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More than half of teenagers have revealed details online that could be used to identify them.

Identity theft isn't just for adults. One innocent click and a child could unintentionally reveal an address or home number, or a lapse in privacy settings may allow someone to collect photos and information that could be used to create a false online persona.

Identity theft isn't always immediately obvious either.

If a child's identity is stolen, it may not become apparent until years later, potentially leading to blackmail, grooming, or bullying.

You can stay vigilant by seeing what you can find.

Try searching their name through search engines and checking social networks to see how effective their privacy settings are.

There are ways to keep your kids safe online. Visit Internet Matters to find out more.

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