May 1, 2014
– Be Internet-savvy and safe: Tips for parents and children
only allows approved followers to see your tweets, the majority of
users share their tweets with everyone.
It is crucial that you and your child understand that one should always
think twice before posting a comment. Once it is out there, it cannot
be retracted. Before you allow your child to create an account on
social media, teach your child that they cannot write or say things
which are offensive or upsetting just because they are not saying
them to the person’s face.
Too many people use Facebook to literally reveal their whole lives –
ranging from the time they go to sleep at night to checking in whenever
they go shopping, go on vacation or are socialising. Although
these actions are innocent, those who have access to this personal
information do not always deal with this information in the same
Facebook enables people to control the audience of their posts.
Parents should encourage their children to review their privacy settings
and to make sure that they consider the audience when sharing
content on Facebook. They should further encourage their kids to
use their activity log, a powerful tool that enables users to review and
manage what they’ve shared on Facebook. With your activity log, you
can manage who sees your content across Facebook. No one else
sees your activity log. What goes for your children should go for you.
You should also review your privacy settings to ensure that your
posts and photos can’t be viewed by just anyone.
Facebook provides the following valuable advice to parents: “If you
have a Facebook timeline, and have befriended your child, try to
respect the same boundaries that you use offline. Let your relationship
dictate how you interact; for example, whether you join a conversation
among your child’s friends or post on their wall. Think of
social media as a get-together at one of your child’s friends’ houses.
You can give permission for your teen to attend, and even though you
won’t be there to monitor their behaviour, you trust your teen to
have good judgment around peers and other parents. It’s all about
balancing your teen’s growing independence and need for privacy
with your safety concerns.”
Children have developed their own language to communicate with
their friends on social media and instant messaging. Although some of
these acronyms may be innocent and are used to speed up their
typing and avoid long phrases, many are not. The problem arises when
your child knows that you don’t know what the meaning of the
acronyms is and they then use them to keep their communication
secretive. These acronyms may also be used by cyberstalkers (who
often pose as teenagers) to get your child to behave inappropriately.
Some of these acronyms are used to warn the person with whom they
are interacting that they can no longer have a personal conversation.
The acronyms include, but are not limited to:
GNOC – get naked on cam; TDTM – talk dirty to me; NIFOC – naked in
front of computer; PAW – parents are watching; PIR – parent in room;
POS – parent over shoulder;CD9/Code 9 – parent/adult around; ASL (R
P) – age, sex, location (race/picture); (L)MIRL – (let us) meet in real life;
P911 – parent emergency; PRON – porn; FYEO – for your eyes only.
There are a variety of websites that provide updated lists of these
acronyms – make sure you familiarise yourself regularly. One such a
comprehensive website is the Slang Dictionary, which one can access at
http://english-afrikaans.co.za/html/slang.php?action alternatively, visit
GENERAL SAFETY TIPS
Passwords should never be shared – not even with friends. There is
one exception, and that is that you should know what your children’s
passwords are. If a home computer is shared, teach your child that they
should always log off from each social network before accessing another
and to ensure that they have logged off from all sites once they have
finished using the computer.
h8708; Be willing to learn
Many parents use the excuse that they can’t monitor their children’s
online activity because they do not know how technology
works and feel too embarrassed to ask their children to explain it
to them. Teenagers recognise this easily and you should rather be
frank about your lack of knowledge and be eager to learn than to
use it as an excuse. Take your children’s online relationships
seriously. Ask them questions about how it works and brainstorm
together to come up with solutions to the safety issues they have
h8708; Balance and communication
There’s a sign at a restaurant that reads:“We don’t have Wi-Fi and
prefer that people talk to one another.” This is typical of what
people’s interactions have become in public places where people are
often more bothered about what they will lose out on when not
watching their Twitter feed or Facebook profile than about interacting
with their partner/friends.
The truth is that although social media is used as a form of communication,
it is important that parents set an example to their children
May 2014 ervamus 39
40 Mei 2014 ervamus
by encouraging "offline" family activities – good old-school communication.
Set aside a specific time each day when technology plays
second fiddle to personal interaction and communication.
h8708; Learn to say “NO!”
Teach your children to say no to questions that make them feel
uncomfortable, or that they should block or unfriend those who send
them inappropriate messages via Facebook or Twitter, or other forms
of social media. Blocking a user empowers the individual who takes
this step. Alternatively, if you don’t react to inappropriate content, the
aggressor may lose interest and find another person to target.
MORE TIPS FOR PARENTS
h8708; Communicate with your child and be involved in all their activities,
their hobbies and interests. You should know your children’s friends
– you should not only know their names, but have met them and their
parents personally and have their contact details.
h8708; Familiarise yourself with the software programs and the methods
your child uses to communicate online.
h8708; Whenever possible, use the Internet together with your child.
h8708; Set time limits for Internet use – this could be adapted as your child
grows older and needs to increase their Internet access for doing
school assignments, etc.
h8708; Teach your children that they should never complete profiles for a
service provider or enter any personal information on any form.
h8708; Children’s screen names should be non-descriptive so as not to identify
the child. Do not use cute names, nicknames, school names or
names linked to the child’s date of birth. Try to use gender-neutral
names, such as Jean, as predators are usually on the lookout for young
h8708; Find out who your children are exchanging e-mail with, and only let
them use chat areas when you can supervise.
h8708; Be aware of all the places where your child has Internet access,
such as at school or at friends’ homes. When teaching your child
online safety, you should reiterate that this applies to accessing the
Internet anywhere, irrespective of whether you are near or not.
h8708; Remember that your child can also access the Internet via their
smartphone, which can make it increasingly difficult to monitor your
child’s online activity. Some parents think it wise to keep their
children’s phones with them during the night to limit the chances of
their children having unauthorised calls late at night when no-one is
h8708; Teach your child to use child-friendly search engines, a list of which
can be accessed at www.safesurfingkids.com/approved_sites.htm
h8708; Access Google’s SafeSearch, which can help you to prevent adult
content from appearing in your search results. Although no filter
is 100% accurate, SafeSearch should help you avoid most of this
type of material. Visit https://support.google.com/websearch/
answer/510?hl=en for step-by-step instructions. This same page
also provides information on what one should do to have explicit
TIPS FOR CHILDREN
h8708; As has been mentioned above, never give any personal information
out about yourself unless you are with a trustworthy adult who
approves. Although not all websites which collect personal information
do it for illegal purposes, one should rather be safe than
h8708; Unlike chatrooms, where people do not use their real identities for
communication, Facebook encourages the creation of a community
consisting of people using their real names and identities, and
where people are held accountable for their actions. It’s against
Facebook’s terms and conditions to lie about your name or age.
You can help Facebook by reporting fake profiles if you ever see
h8708; Similarly, Facebook also relies on its users to report abusive content
– whether it’s on your profile page or someone else’s. You can also
report inappropriate Pages,Groups, Events. (Remember that reporting
is confidential, so no one will know who made the report.)
h8708; In the same way that you have been taught not to talk to strangers in
person (real life), the same goes for your online activities. Remember
that predators may pose as friends, neighbours, teachers or classmates.
If you are unsure as to whom you are talking to, call a trustworthy
h8708; Remember that anything that you say in a chatroom can be monitored
by someone else – someone who may keep logs of messages
which they may use to fool you into thinking they are someone
whom they are not.
h8708; Never give information about yourself or anyone else over the
Internet, irrespective of how innocent it seems.
h8708; Never download files or images onto your computer or your smartphone
without the permission of your parents or a trustworthy
h8708; Never use your real name, nickname or any other name that can
reveal personal information about you, such as you birth date,
location or sex, when using a chatroom. The same goes for your
– Be Internet-savvy and safe: Tips for parents and children
May 2014 ervamus 41
– Be Internet-savvy and safe: Tips for parents and children
h8708; If anything happens online that makes you feel uncomfortable, or
sends you inappropriate messages or e-mails, inform an adult
immediately. Don’t be afraid, as the eventual consequences may be
much more damaging than the initial reprimand that you may get.
h8708; Remember that, when using the Internet, you may accidentally
meet bad people. If you come across such people, stop interacting
with them and stop looking at that what is upsetting you. Tell your
parents or a trustworthy adult.
h8708; Never set up meetings with people you have met on the Internet
unless you tell your parents about it and they accompany you to
the meeting. Remember that predators often use false information
and pretend to be a person of more or less your own age.
h8708; Don’t lie to your parents about such meetings, as many children
have done the same with dire consequences, such as being kidnapped
or sexually abused thereafter.
h8708; Do not try to hide online conversations from your parents.
h8708; Remember that so-called Internet friendships, relationships and
conversations can never be as rewarding as those you can have in
person. If you have a problem and need to talk to someone about
it, choose a friend, a family member, an adult you trust, or contact
Childline: 08000 55555.
WHAT TO DO IF THE UNWANTED BEHAVIOUR GOES
Depending on the source or the forum where the unwanted behaviour
presented itself, one should take action. Cyberbullying can go over into
real-life bullying, especially if your child and the cyberbully are having
personal contact, such as if they go to the same school or take part in
the same extramural activity. It is important that parents bring bullying,
in whatever from it presents itself, to the attention of the school, as
the latter may have access to additional resources or may offer assistance
and guidance as to what you should do and when you should
take it to the authorities.
Many of the social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, offer
users the opportunity to report the violation – however, one has to
make sure that the alleged offender has actually breached the specific
rules and terms of service, and remember that they will most often not
mediate disputes between users. They may, however, remove the profile
of the offender after they have found that that user breached their
terms of service.
Facebook removes issues/posts that don’t follow the Facebook Terms
(such as pornography, hate speech, threats, graphic violence, bullying and
spam). Users who come across something on Facebook that doesn’t
follow the Facebook terms should use the report link near the abusive
content to submit a report.
Depending on the type of threat the user has received, one should
consider contacting the police, as they will be in the best position to
assess the threat and intervene or assist where necessary. The
Protection from Harassment Act 17 of 2011 has opened up new
possibilities in terms of dealing with stalkers and bullying, as the latter
is regarded as a form of harassment.
* * *
In many ways, the Internet is one of the biggest advantages of the
modern era in which we live, but sadly, due to people using it for the
wrong purposes, it has also caused many people a lot of hardship and
financial damage. It has created an additional platform for criminals to
commit their crimes, and it has an impact on our privacy if we share
too much information on the wrong places.
Similar to us knowing the advantages and disadvantages of driving a
motor vehicle before we get behind the wheel, we should also familiarise
ourselves with the advantages and disadvantages of using the
Internet in all its forms. Then we should make sure that our whole
family is clued up and protected. This is just one of your responsibilities
as a parent. Don’t shift it to someone else – accept it and make
work of it.
LIST OF REFERENCES
“Help teens play it safe.” – Accessed at www.facebook.com/
safety/groups/parents/ on 13 April 2014.
“Internet safety tips for parents.” – Accessed at www.saps.gov.za/
youth_desk/parents/internet_safety.php on 2 April 2014.
“Playing it safe.” – Accessed at www.facebook.com/safety/groups/teens/
on 13 April 2013.
Runzel, T. “Child Internet safety acronyms.” – Accessed at
“Safety tips for parents.” – Accessed at https://support.
safety-center/articles/470968-safety-tips-for-parents on 3 March 2013.
“Use these tips every day to stay safe online all year long.” – Accessed
at http://za.norton.com/june-is-internet-safety-month/article on 13
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