Preventing your child from downloading and file sharing illegally

The internet gives easy access to a wide range of downloadable music, videos, software and documents. Find out how your child can benefit from these legally and without risking becoming a victim of grooming, bullying, identity theft or viruses.

Illegal downloads

There are many sites where you can legally download these files by paying a fee. However, many internet users continue to break the law by downloading copyright protected files for free.

You do not necessarily have to pay to download all copyright-protected material, and there are many sites offering free files. You should research any download site your child is planning to use to check if they are legal.

The various industries affected by illegal downloading now monitor the internet and can take legal action ranging from fines to suing. These actions are likely to apply to you rather than your child as the law holds you responsible for them.

The Pro-Music website lists hundreds of safe and legal download sites.

Peer-to-peer file sharing

Peer-to-peer file sharing is when data that has been uploaded/downloaded is made available for free to other individuals over the internet. As the internet is used by millions of people, file sharing creates a super library of files available to anyone who is online.

File sharing copyright-protected material is just as serious as illegal downloading as you are helping to distribute illegally downloaded data.

In order to use file sharing sites you normally have to download special software. Often this will leave an icon on the desktop of your PC. If you think your child may be downloading files illegally or without your permission, check the desktop for any icons you don’t recognise.

The dangers of downloading and file sharing

Apart from breaking copyright, which the law views as theft, other possible dangers include:

  • viruses – downloading files or software can put computers at risk from potentially harmful programs
  • theft – file sharing can allow other computers to view all the files on your computer, which means that your personal information might be stolen
  • unsuitable images – if your child is using an illegal download site they could be exposed to pornographic, violent or age-inappropriate content
  • exposure to potentially dangerous strangers – it's possible to chat on some file sharing sites, which could leave your child open to grooming, bullying and abuse
  • Guide to legal use of schools copyright material
  • Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) website

Helping your child download safely

As a parent you can:

  • explain the risks to your child – they are exposing both you and themselves to legal action
  • make sure they know that filesharing and illegal downloading is viewed as theft
  • check your computer(s) regularly – sites logged in a computer's history or new icons/software can suggest illegal activity
  • research free and legal downloading sites – find suitable sites for your child to use

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