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Are Your Kids Safe Online This Summer?

iPhone - News Extra

5:54am 3rd August 2015
(Updated 10:59am 14th February 2017)

Most parents say they're worried about their children being abused or bullied online and that risk can go up during the summer.

Here in Buckinghamshire, lots of people are trying to stop that from happening.

Dan has this News Extra report: 

On the McAfee (Intel Security) website, you can watch a video on cyber safety. There's also a website dedicated to the issue here.

Raj's top tips were:

  • Stop — Take a moment to understand and spot potential risks before using the Internet.
  • Think — Pause and consider how your online actions may affect your safety before continuing online.
  • Connect — Once you have taken these steps to safeguard yourself and your family, enjoy the Internet with confidence.

Cyber-bullying concerns: only one in ten parents think that their child is safe online 

  • Half (45%) of parents are concerned about their child being bullied online
  • Two-fifths (38%) of parents think that their child may have been bullied online
  • A third (33%) of parents think their child may be a cyber-bully themselves
  • Over half (53%) of children often go online without any parental supervision
  • Nearly one in five (16%) of children have experienced mean or cruel behaviour online
  • A quarter (22%) of children have witnessed the cyber-bullying of a classmate or friend
  • Half (46%) of parents have set up their children’s social profile; 45% have set up a Facebook account for their children aged under 13 despite the age restriction

Here's what McAfee have found out:

Parents need support

Despite children’s increasing use of the internet and the ease and range of mobile devices they use to access it, a third of parents (32%) admit to not having had any conversation with their children about online safety.

Only 17% of children believe that there are parental controls on the home computer, and less than one in five (19%) parents has set parental controls across all internet-accessible devices at home including mobile devices.

With almost half (46%) of parents having set up their child’s social networking site and 45% of parents with children under the age of 13 having set up a Facebook account for their child, despite the age restriction, parents may be unintentionally enabling their children’s online behaviours.

The findings revealed that some parents actually disagree with current social media site age restrictions; with nearly one in eight (11%) claiming that current age restrictions are too limiting and that younger children should be able to join social networks. Where restrictions are in place, over one in eight children (13%) has lied about their age to get around them. 

The truth about cyber-bullying

The research also suggested that children need help to better understand what is and isn’t appropriate behaviour online, with many of them unaware of what constitutes cyber-bullying.

Only 23% of those who had directed a comment with cruel or abusive language to someone online considered it ‘mean’ to the person it was directed at, and just 9% consider that behaviour to be cyber-bullying. In addition, 15% said that if someone was upset by a mean comment they had directed at them online, they would think they were ‘over-reacting’, with a quarter (24%) saying they would be ‘shocked’ to have their comments perceived as cruel; displaying a real need for education about what online bullying actually is.

Just one in ten (11%) parents believes that their children are safe online, with almost half (45%) stating that online bullying is a major concern for them.

38% of parents think that their children may have been bullied online (with 9% stating that they know this for certain) and 33% believe that their children may be the bullies themselves (6% have been made aware that their child has been a bully).

Raj Samani, online safety expert at McAfee, comments on the findings:

“As a father myself, it’s worrying that parents are unknowingly enabling their children’s bad behaviour online with nearly half of all parents setting up social profiles, despite a third admitting to not having discussed online safety and even fewer having installed parental controls across all devices.

"This is alarming as setting up these social profiles without installing parental controls or even having conversations about how to stay safe online, means children are ill-prepared to understand and deal with online issues such as cyber-bullying.

“This research shows that for many parents a lack of understanding and knowledge around online safety is causing real problems. At McAfee we’re already working hard to make sure that the internet is as safe for kids as possible through our security solutions, but this research highlights the need to better educate parents as well so they can put the right measures in place at home.

"Parents need to feel empowered to be able to set the right security and privacy settings for their family – across all devices – and to have the right conversations with their kids about what is and isn’t suitable behaviour online. Working with the Anti-Bullying Alliance we hope to give parents the tools and knowledge they need to keep their children as safe and happy as possible online.” 

Luke Roberts, National Coordinator of the Anti-Bullying Alliance, said:

“Cyber-bullying is increasingly an accepted part of online-culture. We know that young people are struggling to understand what is appropriate online behavior and how to keep safe, and that parents are struggling to know how best to protect their children from potentially harmful online experiences.

"As adults we need to teach children and young people digital skills and set boundaries so they are able realize the huge benefits and opportunities that the internet offers in terms of accessing information and making friends, but also ensures that they are safe and free from being bullied both online and offline.

“Currently there is no clear leadership, no co-ordination and no adequate educational model in place to tackle the growing issue of cyber-bullying. 

"The Anti-Bullying Alliance are calling for a national debate on children and young people’s use of the internet and their online safety in the 21st Century, focusing specifically on cyber-bullying, which will bring together children, parents, industry, providers, NGOs, government, and educators.

“We need to make cyber-bullying a thing of the past and ensure a digital future for our children that is safe, fun and connected; where children take responsibility for their own safety online, but more importantly know where to turn for help when things go wrong.” 

You'll find advice from the Bucks Family Information Service here.

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