NEWS

Protection from lures of the World Wide Web

Most Greek students have visited websites displaying pornographic material or promoting violence and racism. A great number of teenagers are willing to submit their personal data and even photographs of themselves on the Internet, while young people go out on dates with people they have «met» in chat rooms. Students have become addicted to online games, becoming increasingly introverted and aggressive and even stealing money, while many girls are on dangerous diets and numerous young people have fallen victim to scams advertised on the Internet or have been supplied with pharmaceuticals without a prescription. These phenomena are becoming commonplace, just like the Internet itself. Parents normally react to these issues spasmodically, since they more often than not know less about the Internet than their children. «Especially at first, parents react in the most unsuitable way,» says Tania Kyriakidi, coordinator of the Safe Net Home project in Greece and a member of the EKATO consumer group. «I don’t know anything about the Internet, so I just cut off the connection,» is the most common answer parents give concerning their initial reaction when discovering that their children are becoming badly influenced. «Prohibiting use of the Internet at home simply leads the child to use a computer elsewhere, where there is no parental supervision whatsoever,» warns Nikos Vassilakos, president of the Greek Internet Users’ Association (EEXI). Recently, however, the situation has improved somewhat, with a number of initiatives helping to inform parents and young Internet users. Firstly, there’s Safenet, an organization that monitors Internet content and comprises Greek Internet servers, the EKPOIZO consumer group and EEXI. Safenet has created the www.safeline.gr website, which contains useful information and other useful Web addresses that provide tips on how to use the Internet creatively. The site also offers the possibility for users to make (anonymous) claims against offensive or dangerous websites and the information is then directly passed on to the central regulatory body. Last year, Safeline received 294 complaints regarding unsuitable or illegal material on the Internet, the majority of which concerned abuse of children. Furthermore, EKATO has created another group called Safe Net Home, which comprises a hotline (80111EKATO, or 8011135286) and the website www.saferinternet.gr. But what can parents do to protect their children from unsavory material? First of all, they should neither fear the Internet nor turn a blind eye to what their children are using it for. Experts suggest that parents familiarize themselves with computers and the Internet, and take part in Web surfing with their children. «The computer should not be hidden in some corner,» says Vassilakos. «It should be placed in the busiest part of the house, such as the living room or television room.» Next, parents should set some ground rules for their children, experts say, as well as help them to understand that the information on the Internet should not be taken for granted. They should explain to their children that they should never, under any circumstances, give out their private information and that they should avoid dangerous sites. Specially designed software is also very helpful on this point, and a list of products can be found on the aforementioned websites. In any case, however, a child that lives in a balanced environment and enjoys a healthy social life away from the computer is less vulnerable to the lures of the World Wide Web.