Keeping children safe online
Monday, June 20, 2016
Every parent knows that keeping their children safe online is a daunting and challenging task. Young people are growing up in a world where they can access the internet with ever-increasing ease and along with the undoubted benefits come a number of dangers that can pose a risk to any child at any time.
It's striking that whenever we at the NSPCC post anything about online safety on social media it is one of the most shared and talked about topics. Despite this, many adults with responsibility for protecting children still seem to be struggling to keep up with the best ways to keep them safe from harm and abuse.
Children are increasingly at risk of harm online, with the likes of cyberbullying, online grooming and child sexual exploitation constantly proving worrying threats.
Our research has shown that 60 per cent of 13 to 18 year olds say they have been asked for a sexual video or image of themselves and police forces across Wales are seeing a rise in children ‘sexting, indecent images of themselves to each other.
Part of the problem is that as quickly as new solutions are drawn up, so the internet evolves and presents us with further complications. For many parents, the sheer number of social media platforms used by their children remains a mystery and the list continues to grow. We've tried to combat this with the Net Aware guide we made in partnership with O2, which we update on an ongoing basis, which tells parents and professionals about the most popular sites, apps and games that children are using online.
Part of the solution has to be educating all children and young people from a young age about the dangers of the online world and equipping them with the skills to navigate some of these waters themselves. Again, we've tried to do this with our Share Aware guide and teaching resources, which warn children and young people about the dangers of sharing pictures and personal information about themselves.
Progress is being made in equipping the next generation of school children to stay safe online. In Wales following a very lengthy, detailed review, a new school curriculum is now beginning with a focus on ‘digital competency,. The internet's an invaluable tool in a child's education, but we need to ensure they are fully trained to use it, and aware of all its dangers, from a young age. We must not miss this opportunity to better equip children with the tools needed to stay safe from abuse.
With a new Welsh government, we are calling for online safety to be at the top of the agenda in child protection and for policy-makers. In Wales, the new National Safeguarding Board presents us with an excellent opportunity to focus on what needs to be done to better meet the needs of professionals and practitioners working with children.
Arming our children with their own defences and building a stronger safety net for when things go wrong are the very basics needed to help our children stay safe in this digital age.
Des Mannion is head of service at NSPCC Wales.