There are many benefits which come with the internet, however, because the internet is used and run by people there are risks.
As adults, the part of our brain which alerts us to risk has developed. In children this has not, and as adults it is part of our responsibility to keep them safe.
There are 7 key areas of risk which can impact on adults as well as children.
Viewing inappropriate sites. This can include violence, sexual brutality, pornography, eating disorders, terrorism etc. Some actions can be taken to restrict the ease at which children can access these sites, but communication is key. The key problem here is that the majority of parents do not realise exactly the type of images their children can access with a couple of clicks.
Statistics vary, but up to 90% of children view these sites. 25% of sexual offenders are now under the age of 21
Cyber Bullying. The internet has given the Bully a new tool. Children who may not bully in the real world feel they can now hide behind a screen. Many people now seem to think it is ok to post what they want to whom they want without any thought for the effect it will have on the recipient. Children need to have it explained to them that cyber bullies can be traced by their IP Address and can be found. They also need to understand when someone is bullying that the problem lies with the Bully, not the Target. See Happy Kids Don't Bully.
Trolling is an extension of bullying. It is where people post nasty, rude or threatening comments online to people they have no personal relationship with. People need to understand that posting is publishing and they are liable to the same libel laws as if they had published it in a magazine or newspaper. The reason people troll is the same as bullying: they are trying to deal with their own insecurities or weaknesses and trolling gives them a feeling of power or control.
Approximately 34% of children are cyberbullied. Approximately 49% of children are bullied.
Sexting is the sending of sexual messages or images. It needs to be clearly understood that any sexual or naked image of a person under the age of 18 is CHILD ABUSE. It is illegal and you can be prosecuted if you have these images on your device in the same way a Paedophile can. If you send these images on you are Distributing Child Abuse Images. Once an image is sent it is impossible to control what happens to it. If you become aware of such an image you should immediately report it to the IWF and to the Police via CEOP.
Approximately 34% of young people and children are now involved in Sexting.
Violent Gaming - As a species, we learn by copying the human form. This is why we speak the same language as the people who brought us up. This is why we follow fashions. It is our survival mechanism. It teaches us how to be safe. This is a fairly complex subject to explain, but put very simply, we are predisposed to accept that violence is ok through either seeing or experiencing it, and then when we go and play on games for hours where attrocities are committed by very real human looking characters, our brain can trick us into accepting this kind of behaviour as normal and ok. It is called normalisation. There are age restrictions on these games for a very good reason. A child's brain does not have the development to differentiate fact from fiction. Just think of Father Christmas!
Identity Theft - In children this often results in bullying. In adults it can have many repercussions. Online security is key. Do not disclose your password to anyone. We suggest you study our password advice and check out the film.
Grooming - Grooming used to be about an adult grooming a child in order to have a face to face sexual encounter. While this still happens, with the developments within the internet, grooming now also includes virtual sextual experiences via web cam using social media sites. The children are talked into, through the use of online gifts, flattery etc, taking off their clothes or performing or watching sexual acts in front of the camera. This often takes place in the child's bedroom via their smartphones, tablets or laptops.
If you would like to know more you can purchase our Online Safety Guide or ask your child's school to run a Safe Online Parenting Workshop