As the children go back to school, many parents will be considering investing in a computer for their children to use so they can access online educational resources and use word processing and graphics software to produce their homework and coursework. Dr. Kevin Marshall, Education Director, Microsoft Ireland, is advising parents and guardians to take their time when choosing a computer and to educate themselves on internet safety.

Speaking today, Dr. Marshall said: “There is no doubt that being technically literate and aware gives your child a head start, not just in school but also in preparation for life. Unlike practically everything else, where prices typically go up year after year, technology becomes more affordable as time passes.”

“The internet is a wonderful educational tool and children’s use of the web is increasing every day.  Although this gives them huge advantages, we need to recognize that certain basic things need to be done in order to ensure the safety of our children when online.  As a parent myself I am very aware of the risks of giving my children access to the internet.  I would recommend parents today take heed of some simple guidelines will ensure that your children maximise the benefits of the internet while avoiding any potential issues.”

Microsoft is recommending that parents and guardians familiarize themselves with the simple guidelines outlined below and to put them into action in order to enhance the overall experience of children online.

  • Talk about potential dangers and your concerns with your children
  • Get your children to talk to you about what they do on the internet
  • Encourage them to talk about anything "uncomfortable" they find
  • Check the history section of your web browser for suitability of sites and chat rooms
  • Only set up the computer in a public area of the home where you can monitor your children’s activities
  • Set rules about when the internet can be accessed and for how long
  • Make a rule that they can never give personal information without permission
  • Make your children agree that they never agree to meet an on-line friend without permission
  • Check e-mails (especially for younger children)
  • Check phone bills

Many new PCs, such as those running Windows Vista included built-in parental controls which enable parents to manage children’s use of the computer from the times they are allowed online to the types of site they can visit.

Microsoft has also launched a new back to school web site which provides parents and students with resources to make the most of their computers during the school year. The web site can be found at: http://www.microsoft.com/ireland/backtoschool/

If you encounter any suspected illegal content on the internet you can report it confidentially by logging on to www.hotline.ie. Other forms of illegal content and activities may also be reported using this service.