It goes without saying that the internet is being more widely used each and every year, with more and more children having access to it. Many children from as young as 3 years of age have their own mobile phone and/or tablet, with access to the internet on it. The internet is mostly very beneficial for children, young people and adults, with the positives definitely outweighing the negatives. However, this does not mean that they dangers and risks should be ignored.
This is not a blog post about ‘bad parenting’ but rather about raising awareness and understanding, so that parents and carers feel more confident about their children being online and hopefully encourage them to put in place some form of parental controls or to learn about the social media sites and popular websites that their children access.
Let’s Look at Some Statistics
- 99% of 12-15 year olds use the internet.
- 38% of 9-12 year olds are on social media despite age restrictions.
- 16% of children and young people have pretended to be someone who they are not whilst online.
- 8% of children and young people take an adult with them when meeting someone who they have only ever spoken to online.
- 60% of 13-17 year olds have included their physical location on their social media status.
- 14% of children and young people have sent photographs or videos of themselves to someone who they have never met face-to-face.
- 62% of children have smart phones. 69% of these children have no parental controls in place.
- 28% of parents class themselves as beginners when it comes to the internet.
- 42% of all children register themselves as being 18 or over when using the internet.
From these statistics it is easy to see some of the risks that children and young people could be faced with whilst using the internet. With many adults not fully understanding the online world, it is easy for children and young people to fall into the dangers that are out there.
For me, I would recommend that all parents and carers who have children and young people who use the internet, to do their own research in regards to the certain apps and sites that their children use the most. I would also recommend that they talk to their children about the risks at hand. For example, there are so many 13-17 year olds who are openly revealing their location online. This can be very dangerous if the wrong kind of people were to see such information, especially if the individual is alone. Simple discussions about keeping yourself safe online can be very beneficial.
I was not shocked by the number of children who register themselves as being older than what they actually are. I know many people who have done this. My younger brother being one of them.
The majority of social media platforms have age restrictions of 16 and 18. Yet so many children and young people are signing up for them each and every day. At the moment, Tik Tok is a very popular app that a lot of young children enjoy, yet the age restriction for this is 16.
A lot of parents are not too fussed about their children signing up for social media accounts such as facebook and instagram as their parents can see their profiles and can ask their children to adjust their settings to ensure that their information is private rather than public. But how many parents can be sure that their children keep these settings this way. How many parents can be sure that their children are not talking to someone online, who they have never met with face-to-face. There are not a lot of parents who have parental controls in place and not a lot of parents who have these serious conversations with their children in order to prevent such things from happening.
There are three main dangers to using the internet:
- Context – What their children are accessing. The most searched for word online is ‘sex’, with 200,000 US citizens being addicted to pornography on the internet.
- Connection – A parents worst fear. Another adult connecting with their child online. Someone pretending to be someone they are not in order to talk to and gain the trust of their child. The fear that their child will meet with someone who they have only ever contacted online. Though this is rare, it does happen.
- Commerce – The internet is a growing platform for businesses, companies and websites to advertise their goods. 25% of all emails received are spam (junk mail). It is very easy for a child or young person to come into contact with an advert that they should not be seeing for their age. It can be tempting to children and young people to fill in their personal details and submitting them to various places all across the internet, not truly knowing where they are sending them.
Some parents admit to logging into their children’s facebook profile to check that there is nothing wrong; such as having friends on their list that they shouldn’t have or that their inboxes are not filled with conversations with strangers or negative messages from bullies… Would this be considered as invading their child’s privacy? Could this lead to a loss of trust between parent and child?
What is classed as going too far when it comes to protecting your children on the internet? It is difficult. A very fine line between protection and invasion.
Again I feel openly talking with your children about the dangers of the internet, the dangers of talking to strangers and the seriousness of bullying should be enough. I feel you should only check their social media and their messages if you have genuine concerns, not just curiosity. This is just my personal opinion, I am not saying that this is the only way to do things.
It is important to ask your children how they are feeling, if you notice their behaviours changing, ask them what’s wrong, show them you are not judging them and that you are there to support them. Tell them that meeting people who they have only spoken to online is dangerous and if they ever do want to go and meet someone, they should always take an adult with them. Conversations like this are likely to build trust and an open and honest relationship between parent and child.
I do think that signing up to social media accounts and other websites when you are under the age restriction brings further risks. The internet uses an algorithm to advertise to the user. When the system picks up that the user is 18 and over, the adverts will be targeted to such audience. This means that if a child is using a website where their profile states that they are 18, they are likely to see advertisements that are not suitable for their age. For example, chat rooms, dating sites, gambling sites and so on and so forth.
There is also a lot of fake advice out there on the internet and it could be dangerous for a child or young person to believe everything that they read online. Especially if they are looking for health based advice and read something that is not accurate.
There are many websites and resources available for children, young people and their parents/carers, when it comes to online safety. I will link to some of them below. Please do what you can to ensure your Childs safety online, it is so important and all it takes is a good conversation, trust, possibly some parental controls and an open relationship with one another.
What sort of things do you have in place to keep your child safe online?