The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) is an organization formed and is based in the UK that basically aims to protect children from “child sexual abuse images online”, in partnership with the netizens and the police. Today, October 26 marks the 2011 IWF Awareness Day, a day of taking part in reaching out to people via the Internet and other media to inform people that there is a contact / hotline they could actually connect with to report “criminal on-line content”.
Organizations, such as IWF, are not the only ones who can do something to keep children safe on-line. Parents and every adult are and should be the prime movers of this great effort. I’ve listed here other risks and dangers children might encounter whenever they go on-line, apart from the usual age-inappropriate content we’re all too familiar with:
(1) Web threats that are under the radar. This is especially true in social networking sites that young people frequent to more often. Since such sites are all about socializing and sharing, it is always possible for anyone to share links to locations where children could divulge their personal information or lead them download malware onto the system. The threat may also come in the form of advertisements, widgets, and apps served within a domain.
(2) Commercialism in its most crude and intrusive way. A lot of businesses-legitimate or otherwise-now have an online presence. Either way, some of these businesses lure adults and children alike to avail of products and services in exchange for personal information (e.g. filling in an online form) or money. Some of these services may be inappropriate for children, such as dating sites, gambling sites, and the like. The information used in signing up for them can be used for obtrusive advertising via pop-ups, spam, and even identity theft.
(3) Unwanted attention from others. Since the internet is just an extension of the real world, children might bump into sexual predators, bullies, and stalkers on-line without them realizing. It is not at all bad to meet new people, but when one is online, anyone could be whoever they want you to be.
Oh, one more thing: It is also a risk for children to take part or participate in any act of misbehaviour toward others and organizations, and by that we meant (a) they are cyberbullies themselves, (b) they harass other kids, (c) putting up lewd, inept, and generally disrespectful comments, and (d) being themselves the source of on-line threats. These and probably more, they can do because of the anonymity of the Internet. Of course, as we’ve been seeing in the news, such actions only come back to bite the doers one way or another.
It is of utmost importance that parents and responsible adults are aware of these threats are so that they can caution children under their care and educate them on how to respond. It is also important that parents and adults know what their children are doing on-line, because the worst possible danger they could get themselves into could be something self-inflicted.
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