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Safety on the Net

The government has issued guidance to protect pupils from abuse via the Internet. Adam Jezard reports

Guidance aimed at protecting pupils from unsuitable information on the Internet and from being targeted by child molesters in online chat rooms has been published by the Department for Education and Employment. Announcing the revised guidelines, the minister for learning and technology, Michael Wills, said: "As the Internet continues to develop, we must remain constantly vigilant in our efforts to protect children against those who would abuse it."

The guidance recommends that children should not be identifiable on school websites and that whole-class rather than individual e-mail addresses should be used, except on school and local authority Intranets. When using ducational chat rooms, the advice is to:

* allow pupils to have access only to chat rooms the teacher is familiar with;

* ensure constant supervision of pupils when using chat rooms;

* use chat rooms that are moderated or refereed by a trusted adult or service provider at all times;

* install and run "net minding" software to watch for expletives, and key words or phrases ("meet", "secret" and so on).

The DFEE is asking teachers to ensure that parents are made aware of its advice and follow the guidelines at home. The full advice can be found on http:safety.ngfl. gov.uk. GridClub, a range of professionally mediated clubs for children aged seven to 11 and run on behalf of the DFEE by Channel 4 and others, can be found at www.gridclub.com.

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