March 4, 2012

Internet Safety for Parents: Preventing your Children from Downloading Online

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    When it comes to internet safety for parents many people overlook the myriad of hazards that illegal online file sharing and downloading can potentially have. In this article we’re going to get to grips with some of these key problems and give you a few tips on how to prevent your child from downloading.

    The first thing you need to consider as a parent is that file sharing and downloading from non-reputable sources is illegal in almost every country in the world. In the UK copyright laws make it a criminal offense to download or share any copyrighted material. As a parent you are responsible for anything downloaded in your home so encouraging or being ambivalent towards these practices is not only harming your child’s safety, it is also harming your own. Infringement of copyright costs the global media industries billions of pounds per year and whilst your attitude may be one of “well they have lots of money” this is not the best attitude to have as this seriously harms the development of the industries involved and at the end of the day is going to be hurting the people lower down the scale much more than the big “faceless” corporations. We address this view simply because it is the most prevalent amongst people justifying file sharing. This view is patently false however and we encourage you to discard it. This then equates to the first step a parent should take to discourage illegal downloading and file sharing- talk to your child or children about who is really going to be effective by the theft of copyrighted materials and make sure they fully understand who they will be affecting.

    The second thing to be aware of is the actual potential dangers of file sharing and illegal downloads. The problem with the internet generally is that there is no regulation of content. The same applies with software and files even if they appear to be exactly what the user is looking for. Just because your child downloads “Toy Story 3” this is no guarantee that they will actually be receiving the film they desire. Often there are Trojans and other malware contained within these files even at the most well-known file sharing/downloading sites and you’re antivirus software won’t necessarily pick them up. This exposes your computer to a lot of potentially harmful content and should be avoided. Secondly there have been cases of people sharing illegal content under pseudonyms so “Toy Story 3” could turn out to be something much more nefarious and illegal in a whole plethora of other ways. Explaining to your children the potential risks of illegal downloads and file shares will hopefully put them off considerably making it a powerful preventative tool.

    Finally there are a number of steps you as a parent can take to actually prevent your child’s access to these sites. Firstly you should set them their own account on your home computer and disable administrative privileges from your home computer control panel. Ensure that they do not have permission to install software on your computer. Many sites use torrents as the main method of illegal downloading. Sites such as pirate bay rely on torrent sharing and you need a specialized program to read and stream torrents. By blocking this access you can prevent your child accessing a large number of potentially illegal sites. Secondly you should consider cyber nanny software which will block potentially harmful material from being looked at and prevent a wide variety of these kinds of actions. Whilst a little expensive this software will make it much easier to ensure your children’s safety.


    Jane writes about internet safety for parents in order to help raise awareness about the potential dangers of their child's digital world.

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