A HIGH-tech package of new measures to tighten security around internet use by children has been introduced by Cheshire County Council.
State-of-the-art screening technology and handy hints for parents, designed to keep them up to date with their computer wise youngsters, aim to protect children from themselves and potential predators.
The moves meet some of the major recommendations of a recent government funded review into the risks faced by children from exposure to harmful material on the internet or in video games.
While the system which has been used in schools blocked most access to social networking and inappropriate sites, a few loopholes existed, worrying headteachers, teachers and parents already concerned about the misuse of sites like BeBo, Myspace and Facebook through personal PCs, says the county council..
Cyber bullying, online victimisation of teachers, downloading adult material, suggestive posing and naive disclosure of personal details leaving youngsters vulnerable to “stranger danger” are some of the problems which have confronted parents and headteachers.
Although the risks cannot be eliminated completely, they can be adequately managed, argue IT specialists.
The measures introduced by County Hall include a web filter which allows teacher-controlled access to educational pages.
Attempts to access unsuitable material are detected and blocked before it reaches the screen.
The filter also detects hidden content, viruses, embedded programme code and characteristic signatures of anonymous web proxy sites often used to evade web filters.
As part of the package, parents are being told of their key role in avoiding risks posed by internet technology and how they can help their children steer clear of possible danger.
Many frequently feel helpless and sometimes unfairly blame IT education for some of the things that youngsters get up to on unsuitable sites through their home PCs, says the county council.
It argues that to appreciate the risks and the potential educational benefits of the internet, parents have to understand the technology. It aims to help them do just that.
Cheshire's local children’s safeguarding board, which is responsible for the safety of all children, is to tackle the issues through a newly formed E-Safety Committee.
Around 100,000 Cheshire schoolchildren, from reception class to sixth form, use computers as part of their education.