PARENTS should think about the dangers of the internet if they give their children computers as presents this Christmas.

Highly-publicised cases have revealed that paedophiles log into chat rooms posing as children to groom youngsters for sex assaults.

Police have urged parents to take steps to prevent it happening from the moment the computer is linked to the world wide web.

West Yorkshire Police's Crime Reduction Officer Det Insp John Birkenshaw said: "Paedophile grooming is rare, but the fact is it does happen and parents should be aware of the dangers posed by the internet.

"Make sure the computer you are using is in a central area of your home where you can monitor it frequently. Establish age-appropriate ground rules, including time limits, acceptable areas to access and reasonable penalties such as denying internet access if the rules are broken."

He added: "Warn your child frequently about the dangers of the internet, just as you would warn them about the dangers of drugs and talking to strangers.

"Explain the importance of keeping personal information a secret including real names, home addresses and phone numbers."

He urged parents to be alert to signs of trouble such as their children overusing the computer or long distance calls appearing on the phone bill.

"If this happens, your child could be in contact with a stranger," he said.

He said children should only be allowed to meet other children they have contacted via the internet if both sets of parents talk to one another first and are there with them for the meeting.

Det Insp Birkenshaw added: "Report any inappropriate online activities - for example if you suspect an adult is trying to set up a meeting with your child - to the police.

"Report any online child pornography to your Internet Service Provider and to the Internet Watch Foundation.

"They pass on information to the police and their website,, gives advice on how to set up net nannies to ensure youngsters are not viewing unsuitable sites."

How Net Nanny works

EXAMINER Website Editor Paul Chan said: "Net Nanny -  - is just one of several `nanny' software packages that will log all internet activity undertaken on any machine it is installed on."

He said it gives parents close control over how the computer is used and will keep personal information safe by blocking the sending of phone numbers, credit cards, addresses and objectionable words in email and most chatrooms.

As with any Windows software you buy, you can install it by inserting the CD provided into your PC and following the on-screen instructions.

Paul added: "This system will also provide an updated list of approved and blacklisted sites free.

"While Net Nanny can't replace a vigilant parent as it can't spot or block everything, and it isn't the strictest of web-watching software packages on the market, it can make the task of policing the internet for children a little easier."

He added that major internet provider AOL has parental control software built into its programmes.