Advice for parents

Almost all children today have access to the internet through schools, libraries, community centers, or their home. And most eight to 18-year-olds have internet access from their home computers.

Not only do more children have access to the internet than ever before but they are using it more too. Many schools incorporate the internet into their curriculum and encourage online research for projects. But that's not all kids are doing online. They also email, chat with friends through instant messenger and in chat rooms, play games, create websites and web blogs, and just surf the 'net'.

Even as they grow savvier in their use of the internet, it can still be a dangerous place. The good news is that most dangers can be avoided if children and their parents learn about smart internet use.

Understand how your child is using the internet, talk to them and show an interest. Get familiar with websites they are visiting and applications they use such as direct messaging.

It's a good idea to keep all computers and equipment in a family area so you can see the sites your child is using and be on hand if they need help. Don't just think about the computers - phones and games consoles can also be used to go online so make sure you are aware of other ways your child may be accessing information.

Use parental controls on all equipment which can be connected to the internet and make sure your child understands not to give out personal information such as their address and telephone number.

Young people today are using the internet for just about everything, including bullying. Every day all across the nation, people are being cyberbullied in their own homes. Often students who are being bullied at school go home with hopes of escaping, only to find that when they get on the internet, the bullying continues.

Though a teen may be being bullied, they may not know that help is available or may feel too embarrassed to speak up. With the amount of time young people are spending on the internet or on their phones, it is important to be able to spot the signs of cyberbullying.

Common signs of cyber bullying are that your child may:

  • Become withdrawn or shy
  • Show signs of depression
  • Be extremely moody or agitated
  • Be anxious or overly stressed out
  • Show signs of aggressive behaviour
  • Suddenly stop using the computer
  • Change eating or sleeping habits (e.g. nightmares)
  • Hurt themselves, attempt or threaten suicide
  • Suddenly change friends
  • Not want to go to school, skip school or start getting in trouble at school

Signs that your child may be cyber bullying someone include:

  • Stopping using the computer or turning off the screen when someone comes near
  • Appearing nervous or jumpy when using the computer or mobile phone
  • Being secretive about what they are doing on the computer
  • Spending excessive amounts of time on the computer
  • Becoming upset or angry when computer or mobile phone privileges are limited or taken away

The biggest red flag is a withdrawal from technology. If you notice a sudden change in computer or phone usage, talk to your child - they may be being cyber bullied.

If you are concerned about any online activity please report it to the police non-emergency 101 number or visit the Internet Watch Foundation for advice.

Search Cambridgeshire Constabulary