Keeping children safe online is the biggest child protection challenge of this generation

Parents’ concerns about social networking sites popular with children were revealed recently, as the NSPCC launched its Share Aware campaign to get families talking about socialising safely online.

An NSPCC panel of more than 500 parents from Mumsnet reviewed 48 of these sites and said all those aimed at adults and teenagers were too easy for children under 13 to sign-up to. On more than 40 per cent of the sites, the panel struggled to locate privacy, reporting and safety information.

At least three quarters of parents surveyed by the NSPCC found sexual, violent, or other inappropriate content on Sickipedia, Omegle, Deviant Art, and F my Life within half an hour of logging into the sites.

Those aimed at younger children, like Club Penguin, Moshi Monsters, Popjam and Bearville, fared better and parents did not find any unsuitable content on them.

The NSPCC also asked just under 2,000 children and young people which social networking sites they used. Talking to strangers or sexual content were the main concerns mentioned by children. But they also thought the minimum age limit for signing up to many sites should be higher, despite saying they’d used the sites when they were underage.

The NSPCC has used the reviews to create a new online guide to help inform parents about the risks of different social networking sites used by children.

Peter Wanless, CEO of the NSPCC, said: “Children are taught from an early age that it is good to share but doing so online can be very dangerous. We must all be Share Aware. This Christmas many children will have been given a smart phone, a tablet computer, or a games console. So it’s the perfect opportunity for parents to have that important conversation with their children about who they are talking to and what they share when they socialise online.

“We know that children do take risks online, sometimes without realising it. And we know some parents feel confused by the internet – out of their depth, and out of control. Our Share Aware campaign gives parents straightforward, no-nonsense advice that will help them to untangle the web and feel confident talking to their children about online safety.

“Keeping children safe online is the biggest child protection challenge of this generation. Parents have a vital role to play but we want social networking sites to respond to parental concerns about their children’s safety and privacy. The NSPCC will continue to challenge and work with internet companies and the Government to make the internet a safer place for children.”

The NSPCC’s Share Aware campaign is aimed at parents of 8 to 12-year-old children and also features two animations to be shown on prime time TV and digital spaces. I Saw Your Willy and Lucy And The Boy are engaging films with a serious message that follow the stories of two children who share too much about themselves online. Both films contain the simple message that although children are taught that it’s good to share, this is not always the case online.

People can find out more about the NSPCC campaign at www.nspcc.org.uk/shareaware and join the debate on social media by following #ShareAware.

Anyone looking for advice about keeping children safe online, or concerned about the safety and welfare of a child, can contact the NSPCC’s 24-hour helpline on 0808 800 5000 or email help@nspcc.org.uk

Children worried about online safety or any other problem can call the free, 24-hour helpline on 0800 1111 or get help online at www.childline.org.uk

Written by E-safety Support on January 20, 2015 11:06

Facebook Privacy Changes Explained

If you have had a Facebook account for a while, and statistically you probably have, you should have received an email recently explaining some changes that are being made to your account settings.

Facebook had a setting called "Who can look up your Timeline by name". This setting allowed you to control what sort of people would be able to find your profile by using Facebook's 'search' function.
It allowed you to be findable by all users, friends of friends or only friends.

This means that if you wanted your account to be a bit like an ex-directory phone number you could ensure that people with who you were not already connected could not discover you by typing your name into the search box.

Not being discoverable via search however is not the same as being completely undiscoverable or invisible. Your profile page was still available to all users (unless you had specifically blocked them) provided they could get to your page. There are several ways to find you which do not rely on search. For instance if you comment on someone else's profile, your comment accreditation will link to your Timeline. If a friend tags you in a photo, this tag will link to your Timeline. If people search for phrases like "People who like cake" in Graph Search, links to the profiles of any self confessed cake lovers will be served up.

It is for these reasons that Facebook thinks the ability to limit "Who can look up your Timeline by name" is no longer a relevant setting.

Now, one could argue that there are many valid reasons why an individual may not want to be discoverable on Facebook and that actually, not being discoverable in a search would be a useful partial defence in many cases.

Facebook however, would prefer that privacy was maintained at the level of publishing rather than publisher. i.e. not to control who can see that you have an account, but instead control what activity on that account they can see. Facebook provide settings for this in the 'Privacy Settings' section of your account admin.

There is a lot to be said for restricting discoverability but Facebook clearly don't agree and whether that be for usability or for commercial reasons the e-safety focus must be to ensure people understand how and why they should think about their privacy settings.

There is no doubt that many users are mistaken about who can see their activities and the fact that Facebook had settings for both discoverability and content privacy did little to aid comprehension.

By placing focus on the privacy settings around activity, it may make it easier at least to educate Facebook users about the activity trail they are leaving and who can see it.

In short, we should be encouraging people to make informed and considered decisions as to the privacy setting for each of their activities and not just stick with the defaults, which ofter lean towards the less restriction and wider visibility.

Written by E-safety Support on November 05, 2013 13:26

Busting the digital native myth

We are hearing more and more about the ‘digital native’ generation – young people who have grown up with a world of information and technology at their fingertips. But does this culture of being in natural surroundings breed the expectation that this generation are also safe in the environment.

Let’s take a few steps back…

It’s fair to say, my Dad knows a thing or two about computers. He had the opportunity in the 1970’s of operating a computer, which (without exaggeration) filled an office the size of your average classroom. Moving into the early 80’s and we had the raft of personal computers that came onto the market (for the nostalgic, these included the ZX81 through to the Amstrad CPC – we really were cutting edge in our house!). So when the world wide web arrived, we had that too.

Having seen the developments over the years, this generation has also understood the need to proceed with caution. Things didn’t always go right. So as each new technology came onto the market, so did the need to understand the risks and perhaps steer clear. So my Dad, despite being familiar with all the technologies, doesn’t have any social media accounts and is planning on keeping it that way.

Moving onto the next generation (that’s me) and things are a little different. I was lucky enough to have a mobile phone when I was 19, it was a Motorola – the one that looked like a brick (and weighed about the same). You could make calls on it and that was it. I remember life before the internet and actually having to go to the library if I wanted to research something. Now for me, online activity is something that I will happily engage with, but I know to have different passwords, understand that emails asking for my bank details are most likely phishing and I know exactly who all my Facebook friends are.

So what about these digital natives. I recently asked some young relatives how they could access the internet. They spent the next few minutes reeling off a list of phone, TV, Xbox, laptop and so on. So they do understand that they have a vast amount of access to the internet, but now, going back to my Dad, he tells me that he has had to re-install his computer twice because something has been downloaded or accessed by one of the grandchildren that had put a virus on his machine. One of the kids also has a Facebook account, but doesn’t know personally all the people on it (just in case, I got his parents to check out his account), and another is regularly inviting comments about her and her friends on her profile page.

These are the things that indicate that this digital native generation, while completely comfortable in the online world, are not aware of the risks that they are taking, not to mention the digital footprint they are leaving behind. Is this familiarity with the social media world actually putting them more at risk than the cautious generations before them? The technological times are moving so fast, that simply keeping up is hard enough without having to keep up with the dangers too.

Perhaps it’s not a generation of digital natives, but rather one of the digitally naïve.

Written by E-safety Support on June 24, 2013 15:23


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