Chat guide to help Parents keep Children safe on the Internet

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Children As Young As Five Are Prone To Cyberbullying
A young cosplayer plays with her mobile phone as she rests reuters.com

With safety being one of the five key outcomes of the U.K. government’s “Every Child Matters” strategy,” the Department for Education created the ParentInfo website to provide parents with helpful tips and a hub to protect their children from the imminent dangers of the Internet. The website reinforces its assistance by adding a dictionary of abbreviations that teenagers usually use on social media.

Popularly-used Internet slang and acronyms, including get naked on cam (GNOC) and age, sex, and location (ASL), are explained and made parent-friendly to help them identify the kind of language that children and teenagers use in chat rooms when disclosing personal details. The U.K. government’s project aspires to lessen, if not totally eradicate, issues such as pedophilia, cyberbullying, sexual harassment and body confidence, among others.   

As part of the safety measure of the ParentInfo campaign, the dictionary can help parents decipher codes such as let’s meet in real life (LMIRL), to gang up on someone (ZERG), marijuana (420), and I want sex now (IWSN), which strongly indicate sexual content and risky behaviour. Through this, watchful  parents will also know when their child uses alerts such as “P999” and “Code 9” to signal their online friends that their parents are around.

The Parent Info website is an online service of the government, which aims to provide tips on navigating teenage life and give adults the confidence to talk about sensitive topics with their children. It was developed by the National Crime Agency's Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) and The Parent Zone, founded in 2005 to help parents in keeping their kids safe online.

“The rapid growth and usage of social media has significantly changed the pressures and influences on young people in way that adults can’t always easily comprehend,” said Tracey Oakden, department head of Matthew Arnold school in Oxford to The Independent. “I think this site may help parents, as I know that they struggle with where to go to for information and advice.”

To date, 550 schools have been confirmed and registered to use the ParentInfo website. The goal of the website is to not only equip the parents with the right knowledge about young people’s language in social media, but to also open the doors for dialogue between parent and children to prevent future risks and risk-taking behaviours that could lead to regretful actions later on.

In a previous study conducted by The Department for Education (DfE), it was found that 47 % of parents/carers of children aged 12 to 17 are concerned about their child being in contact with inappropriate people and content. This “Staying Safe” survey had contributed to the campaign of promoting internet safety and parental awareness of risk-taking behaviours among young people today.

The Internet Safety Video (Credit: YouTube/Delta)

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