The Internet offers its users plenty of opportunities to download and share content whether it be music, pictures, movies or games – which are all great if you are doing this legally.
Downloads are often protected by copyright and if obtained without authorisation it is classed as theft. The punishments for this form of theft are severe and lie with the parents of underage children, so it is important you read and accept the terms and conditions of all the sites your children are downloading data from.
As a child it is hard to recognise which sites are legitimate and which are not and therefore it is essential that as a parent you are aware of the source of all downloads and content sharing that your child participates in.
It is important that your child tells you if they want to download any content and that you research the sites available for this. There are plenty of legitimate sources so ensure you only use reputable sites. You can research them with your child so they know which ones are legal and which are not.
Explain to your child what copyright is and the consequences of illegal downloads for both them and you:
- Risking the chance of obtaining viruses
- Signing up leading to spam emails
- Exposure to potentially dangerous strangers
- Exposure to other unsuitable images or internet content
- High fines (make sure your child understands that this is theft)
- Fraud cases (as others may have gained access to your personal information)
To use file-sharing sites you will often need to download software, which will create a shortcut icon on your desktop. Keep a regular eye out for any icons you don’t recognise as it may mean your child is file-sharing illegally. Monitor the content you see your child using and discuss anything that seems suspicious (for example, if they are watching films you know they don’t own) and be aware that your child may try to hide their downloading from you.
If you are concerned, discuss this with your child but avoiding accusing them of anything as they may reject any further communication.
We all know that downloading legally can be costly, especially if your child is doing it a lot, and the temptations for them to use the free illegal sites are high. You may want to agree that a proportion of their pocket money can go towards credit for downloads, or give them jobs around the house to earn extra credits. This teaches important budgeting and money management skills as well as giving them access to legally acquired content. It is generally better to facilitate and encourage use of legitimate sources you have approved than to ban downloading at all which may well lead to your child accessing content from illegal sources without your knowledge.