More than half of kiwi teens say they spend two hours or more a day on the Internet and texting friends and key organisations are joining forces to ensure they are aware of how to stay safe.
Telecom, Netsafe and the New Zealand Police are providing parents and caregivers with a resource that provides straightforward advice about how to keep their children safer in this environment.
The Keeping Kiwi Kids Safer in Cyberspace pamphlet outlines the risks that children and young people face, ranging from being bullied by text or email to receiving unwanted materials online.
The growing range of communications technologies is creating unprecedented opportunities for young people to learn, be entertained, interact with friends and family, and meet new people in cyberspace.
Kate Horler, who leads Telecom’s security initiatives for Home internet users, says that while children are quick to pick up on the benefits of the internet, mobile phones and other devices they are often less aware of the risks.
“If parents aim to understand the internet they can help their children explore and enjoy cyberspace to its best potential while also being mindful of how to stay safe.”
Telecom offers a free McAfee security suite to its broadband and dial-up customers. The security package includes a firewall, anti-virus scanner, identity protection and parental tools to help protect children from harmful content.
Straightforward tips range from keeping the computer children use in the family living area, with the screen in full view, to links to sites for tips on safe surfing and for free security software.
Netsafe says internet and mobile phone communication are a normal part of life for young people. If young people think their technology will be removed if they report a bad experience they are unlikely to confide in an adult, and instead try to manage the situation themselves.
“If adults want to help, they need to tell young people that if there is a problem they will help sort it out, and not take away their social access,” says Netsafe operations manager Lee Chisholm.
Superintendent Bill Harrison, National Manager youth services for NZ Police says information and advice is included in the work programme that Police Education Officers deliver to schools, where it sits well with Police's bullying prevention programme Kia Kaha.
"As Police we want to see all public spaces are safe places for children.
The internet is the largest public space our kids visit and they need guidance and information to navigate it safely."
Parents, caregivers and schools can get copies of Keeping Kiwi Kids Safer in Cyberspace by going to www.telecom.co.nz/safesurfing or by calling 0508 NETSAFE. Schools can get bulk supplies of the pamphlet through their Police Education Officer.