Even though my children are only aged 4 and 6 years of age, they are already impressively adept at using an ipad.
My children’s generation are growing up in a world where using computers and the internet are second nature to them. This is wonderful in many ways; the internet opens up many fantastic learning opportunities and aids greater communication.
However, the internet also poses some very serious risks to children’s safely and quite frankly, this worries me.
Parents’ concerns about social networking sites popular with children have been recently revealed, as the NSPCC launches its Share Aware Campaign to get families talking about socialising safely online.
An NSPCC panel of more than 500 parents from Mumsnet who reviewed 48 of these sites and said all those aimed at adults and teenagers were too easy for children under 13 to sign-up to. On more than 40 per cent of the sites, the panel struggled to locate privacy, reporting and safety information.
At least three quarters of parents surveyed by the NSPCC found sexual, violent, or other inappropriate content on Sickipedia,Omegle, Deviant Art, and F my Life within half an hour of logging into the sites.
Those aimed at younger children, like Club Penguin, Moshi Monsters, Popjam and Bearville, fared better and parents did not find any unsuitable content on them.
Children and young people from across the South West were among just under 2,000 asked by the NSPCC about which social networking sites they used. Talking to strangers or sexual content were the main concerns mentioned by children. But they also thought the minimum age limit for signing up to many sites should be higher, despite saying they’d used the sites when they were underage.
The NSPCC has used the reviews to create a new online guide to help inform parents about the risks of different social networking sites used by children.
Sarah Allum, NSPCC service manager in the South West, said:
“Children are taught from an early age that it is good to share but doing so online can be very dangerous. We must be Share Aware. This Christmas many children will have been given a smart phone, a tablet computer, or a games console.”
“So it’s the perfect opportunity for parents to have that important conversation with their children about who they are talking to and what they share when they socialise online. We know that children do take risks online, sometimes without realising it. And we know some parents feel confused by the internet – out of their depth, and out of control.”
A parent from the South West called the NSPCC after finding highly sexualised images of their 14 year old son on his tablet device. The caller also discovered explicit messages from someone unknown to the family, claiming to be a young teenage girl but using adult language, and requesting their son to send images and videos of himself.
The caller was worried about the content of the messages and the adult language used by their son’s friend and was concerned that she was not the age she claimed. The NSPCC practitioner referred the case to the local police and Children’s Services.
Sarah Allum continued:
“Our Share Aware campaign gives parents straightforward, no-nonsense advice that will help them to untangle the web and feel confident talking to their children about online safety.”
“Keeping children safe online is the biggest child protection challenge of this generation and parents have a vital role to play, but we also want social networking sites to respond to parent’s concerns about their children’s safety and privacy. The NSPCC will continue to challenge and work with internet companies and the Government to make the internet a safer place for children.”
The NSPCC’s Share Aware campaign is aimed at parents of eight to 12-year-old children and also features two animations to be shown on prime time TV and digital spaces. I Saw Your Willy and Lucy And The Boy are engaging films with a serious message that follow the stories of two children who share too much about themselves online. Both films contain the simple message that although children are taught that it’s good to share, this is not always the case online.
You can find out more about the NSPCC campaign here which includes tips about how to start the conversation with your children about staying safe online, a parent’s guide to how to be Share Aware and a no-nonsense guide to the social networks, sites and apps children use.
You can also join the debate on social media by following #ShareAware.
If you are looking for advice about keeping children safe online, or concerned about the safety and welfare of a child, you can contact the NSPCC’s 24-hour helpline on 0808 800 5000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org