On-line Safety - Parenting in a digital age

An audience representing all generations gathered at Lansdowne Crescent Methodist Church on Friday 20th April to hear a talk by Inspector Adrian Bean of West Mercia Police about On-line Safety.  Few people know the dangers associated with using their phones, tablets, laptops and other devices to contact their friends and relations; Adrian brought home to everyone the ways in which young and old alike can be bullied, have their personal information shared with others and sometimes lose thousands of pounds because of computer fraud.

In an amusing way the Inspector explained some of the on-line language, the ways in which biometric data or personal information can be stored on phones and other devices so that anyone can be found and targeted by on-line bullies, paedophiles and fraudsters. Images shared on social media can be stored, altered and circulated without the knowledge of the person who shared it. When these images are posted by children to their friends it can sometimes result in cyber-bullying and social isolation; once the photos are on the web they cannot be withdrawn, and as the government is now realising, this can lead to teenagers having mental health problems.

Inspector Bean outlined some of the dangers to be avoided: putting too much personal information on sites such as Facebook; letting potential burglars know when the house will be empty; sharing offensive messages; falsifying a child’s age so that he or she can go on social media. He showed some of the warning signs that a child might be being offered Cannabis, a drug which is much more dangerous than when it was first introduced. For their own safety, he advised parents not to let children use on-line devices in their rooms unattended.

If a child is being bullied on-line, Adrian advised them to talk to a parent, teacher, friend, or a member of the police force.  Even so, bullying can be difficult to detect and prove, so parents need to look out for warning signs. He answered many questions by parents and grandparents, and stressed the importance of changing passwords regularly and making them more secure. He pointed out the dangers of phishing; if an offer, such as a huge prize, seems too good to be true, it almost always is a fraud. Anyone who has fallen for a spoof email and sent money to such fraudsters should report it to the Police.

Rev Nigel Coke-Woods thanked Inspector Bean for his helpful talk, adding that technology has transformed the lives of everyone, especially in Third World Countries. However even people who use their mobile phones and computers every day can be caught out, and it is important for people of any age to be aware of the dangers.

Our next debate is advertised here - more details nearer the event.


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