The 9th February 2021 marks the eleventh globally celebrated Safer Internet Day, aimed at helping young people navigate online resources. The theme for this year is ‘an internet we trust: exploring reliability in the online world.’
There are lots of benefits for children and young people when using the internet, such as staying connected with friends and family, enabling innovative ways of learning and creating new ways for them to express themselves. But there are also risks that we need to make children aware of should they run into them.
- Children may be at risk of being groomed if they have an online profile on any platform. If children are posting personal information online, then perpetrators can use this to groom young people. In addition, contacting children and young people is easier than ever if they have an online presence. Anyone can make a fake profile in minutes.
- This is why you need to make sure that you and they are able to apply sufficient privacy settings to their accounts, explaining that contact information and posts should only be visible to friends and family that are part of your real life. Children and young people should also be aware of what they are posting online in any case, making sure as much as possible to avoid using personal information. The best way to stay secure online is not to contribute life details at all.
- Bullying is sadly still all-too commonplace in schools, and this can be intensified by bullies utilising the internet to continue their tirade 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In a recent study, 56% of young people said they have seen others be bullied online and 42% have felt unsafe online. Harassment, rumour-spreading, impersonation and exclusion can cause children and young people long-term depression and anxiety.
- Children and young people need to know that they must talk to a parent, guardian, or a teacher who can then step in to mediate the matter or even contact the police. Cyberbullying should never be taken lightly; lockdown has only encouraged further online bullying in the past year, so young people need to know that they are not alone.
Upsetting or explicit content
- Not everywhere online is filtered, and so there’s a chance that your child will come across content related to radicalisation, racism, sex or violence.
- Many browsers and PCs have a child-safe mode built in that you can activate to be effective immediately.
- In an age where any photo can be ‘beautified’ in seconds, it is crucial that young people understand that what they see may not be reality. Social media has increased both male and female eating disorders, feeling that they must conform to a particular body type that in reality is impossible for them to achieve. We are all able to look up fake content such as this in seconds, and it is very rare that an image will identify itself as being edited.
- Children and young people need to be aware that these images are commonplace on Instagram in particular, and that every body is different and doesn’t have to conform to a fake ideal.
- To us it may be obvious when an email claiming we have won £1000 comes through. But children and young people may not be so aware. It is important that they know to always be cautious with these things, and show them to a parent or guardian before taking any action.
- Take a look at our blog ‘8 ways to spot fake news’ for tips on what to look out for.
Just as not all people are bad, not all internet usage will be malicious; in fact, there’s a chance that children or young people won’t come into any of these issues. But it is crucial to make them aware of the risks and open up a dialogue moving forwards. The internet is a great tool, as long as we all use it responsibly.