Watch out parents…Are your children using the online code!

When I was at school I didn’t have a computer. I didn’t have access to the World Wide Web. In fact, when I was going through my teenage years it was not really talked about. Admittedly my teenage years were during the 1990s and there were far more exciting things to be doing. It was only when I went off to university in 1997 that I first encountered the internet. Only then did I realise that a whole new world was out there and that it was going to feel a lot smaller than ever before.

Nowadays children know all about the internet. The children I teach are 3 and 4 years old. They already go click-crazy and whizz about on the computer like it comes naturally to them. They know that “mummy and daddy do emails” and that the ‘web’ is full of exciting games for them to play. Things have simply changed beyond all recognition from my own childhood experiences.

Fast forward a few years and you have children in their teens who are also exploring the world out there via the internet. It would be hard to find a child between 12 and 16 who doesn’t regularly access the ‘web’ for emailing, social networking or simply ‘surfing’.

I recently found out that there were codes being used by children when accessing social networking sites. Children want to have a certain amount of privacy and although parents, in most cases, will monitor their child’s use of the internet, there are times when the children manage to manipulate the situation by using online codes.

POS: Sounds pretty harmless… Does it have any meaning? If someone was chatting to friends via the internet and typed this in between lots of other text (including the LOL: Lots Of Love or Laughing Out Loud; GTG: Got To Go, etc) would it be spotted? Probably not… I found out that POS actually stands for ‘Parent Over Shoulder’ in which case the friend chatting would automatically know to change the course of the online chat. With this discovery it does raise the question of how many other codes are being used by young internet users in order to maintain a certain level of secrecy about their internet usage. Is it the responsibility of others to share the codes with others? Is it possible to keep up with the codes? Are young children vulnerable to online threats that they may be unaware of?

Personally I think that the internet is a safe way of accessing information and communicating. However it should always be done with caution and an awareness of the dangers. Part of me is glad that I didn’t have ‘internet access’ as a teen. I don’t know how wise I would have been.

Please pass this blog entry to people who you feel may benefit from a raised awareness. If you have any comments I am more than happy to hear them.

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