Selfies, Sexting and Sextortion

This week there have been a string of reminders in the news about the risks young people are exposed to through selfies, sexting and sextortion.

Just a week ago, news reports announced that the College of Policing was advising that not all cases of sexting should be reported as a crime. To avoid criminalising young people for inappropriate but generally naive behaviour, the report suggested that a ‘common sense’ approach be taken particularly in cases where the images are self-generated or obtained with consent. While the new advice has been largely well received, it remains to be seen how this will protect those involved, when a self-generated image gets shared beyond it’s intended recipient for example – and who has the responsibility for deciding what should and shouldn’t be reported.

A few days on, and a new online challenge emerged – the one finger challenge. This, the latest in the ‘online challenge’ genre, encourages people to take naked selfies in a mirror, using one finger to cover up their privates. It’s easy to see how this ‘challenge’ could be attractive to young people. It’s also easy to see how it can lead to regrettable and potentially upsetting situations for those involved at a later stage. There would no doubt be a considerable amount of peer pressure to get involved in the ‘challenge’, which could also lead to bullying for both those who do and do not take part.

24 hours later, Jeremy Hunt announced to the Commons Health Committee on suicide prevention efforts, that children should be blocked from texting sexually explicit images by social media companies. Mr Hunt urged technology companies to use software to identify and prevent inappropriate images being sent by under 18s. This recommendation has come under fire, suggesting that this form or ‘censorship’ could do more harm than good. And surely, this blinkered approach to an out-right ban on sexting for under 18s conflicts with the earlier advice from the College of Policing, who seemingly have accepted that sexting is part of current youth culture.

And lastly, on the same day, the National Crime Agency (NCA) reported that sextortion has increased. Sextortion is a form of blackmail, where victims are coerced into performing sex acts on webcams by fraudsters. The victims are then blackmailed with the footage. A substantial proportion of victims are aged between 11 and 20. This is a relatively new crime, but has already been linked to four suicides in the UK including one teenage boy. In response, the NCA have launched a campaign to give advice to actual and potential victims.

So, once again, these varying news items have brought to the forefront the issues surrounding the sharing of personal images online. The suggestions that have been made are likely to have mixed reaction and indeed mixed success. But ultimately, they all remind us that teaching children about these risks, must be embedded in online safety education.



Opinions will vary on the matters raised in these news reports and we welcome your thoughts using the comments section below.

Written by E-safety Support on December 02, 2016 09:46

Online overtakes TV as kids’ top pastime

The internet has overtaken television as the top media pastime for the UK’s children.

Ofcom Report 2016
Ofcom’s report on Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes, published recently, reveals that children’s internet use has reached record highs, with youngsters aged 5-15 spending around 15 hours each week online – overtaking time spent watching a TV set for the first time.



Even pre-schoolers, aged 3-4, are spending eight hours and 18 minutes a week online, up an hour and a half from six hours 48 minutes in the last year.

According to Ofcom’s data, children aged 5-15 have increased their weekly online time by an hour and 18 minutes in the last year to 15 hours.

In contrast, children are spending less time watching a TV set, with their weekly viewing dropping from 14 hours 48 minutes in 2015 to 13 hours 36 minutes in the last year.

YouTube is one of the most popular online destinations for children to watch content, with around three quarters (73%) of those aged 5-15 using the video site. It is also a hit with pre-schoolers with 37% regularly watching YouTube videos, who typically pick ‘TV content’ such as cartoons and mini-movies.

And older children are beginning to show a preference for YouTube with four in ten 8-11s and 12-15s saying they prefer watching YouTube than the TV set.

Despite this, Ofcom’s research shows that TV still plays an important role in children’s lives with nine in 10 still watching, generally every day, and the largest number of children watching at peak family viewing time, 6 – 9pm.

Digital childhood
Digital devices are more widespread among children than ever, including the very young. Today’s research finds that a third (34%) of pre-schoolers (aged 3-4) own their own media device – such as a tablet or games console.

Pre-schoolers typically enjoy digital entertainment on a tablet, with more than half (55%) using one, and 16% owning their own tablet – up from just 3% in 2013.

As children reach pre-to-early teenage years, they prefer smartphones to tablets – with the proportion of children owning one up from 35% to 41% in the last year. This means one in three tweens (8-11s), and eight in 10 older children (12-15s) now have their own smartphone.

As children spend more of their time online, their awareness of advertising and ‘vlogger’ endorsements has also increased with more than half of internet users aged 12-15 (55%) now aware that online advertising can be personalised - up 10 percentage points in the last year. And, 12-15s awareness of product endorsement from vloggers has also increased by 10 percentage points to 57% in 2016.

But, many children still need help to identify advertising on search engine Google with only a minority of 8-11s (24%) and 12-15s (38%) correctly recognising sponsored links.

Book at bedtime
Despite the importance of digital devices in children’s lives, Ofcom’s Digital Day research, also published recently, shows that reading is the third most popular activity with primary school aged children (62%) beating newer activities such as watching online video clips (47%), instant messaging (10%) and watching music videos (11%)5.

Staying safe online
More than nine in ten children aged 8-15 have had conversations with parents or teachers about being safe online, and would tell someone if they saw something they found worrying or nasty.

Parents of older children are most likely to be having these types of conversations with their children, with 92% of parents of 12-15s saying they have spoken to their child about online safety, an increase of six percentage points since 2015.

Nearly all parents (96%) of 5-15s manage their children’s internet use in some way – through technical tools, talking to or supervising their child, or setting rules about access to the internet and online behaviour. Two in five parents use all four approaches.

And, parents of children aged 5-15s are more likely to use network level filters in 2016 - up five percentage points to 31%7.

On the most part, families are in agreement that their child has a good balance between screen time and doing other activities. Most children aged 12-15 (64%), and parents of children of the same age (65%), believe this balance is about right.

Jane Rumble, Ofcom Director of Market Intelligence said: “Children’s lives are increasingly digital, with tablets and smartphones commanding more attention than ever. Even so, families are finding time for more traditional activities, such as watching TV together or reading a bedtime story.”

Click here to download the full Children and Parents: media use and attitudes report

Ofcom Online versus TV

Written by E-safety Support on November 24, 2016 11:32

Worldwide research into the benefits and risk of Internet use by young people

Global Kids Online research confirms that the majority of children say they learn something new online at least every week, but large numbers still face risks online.


Global Kids OnlineThe Global Kids Online project, launched earlier this week (1st November) at the Children’s Lives in the Digital Age seminar held at UNICEF Headquarters in New York, aims to build a global network of researchers using their research toolkit to investigate the risks and opportunities of child Internet use.

Their initial research, carried out in Argentina, the Philippines, Serbia and South Africa, with support from UNICEF country offices, piloted the research toolkit, with the results being compared and combined to demonstrate both similarities and differences between countries.

The key findings of the pilot research include:

  1. Children predominantly access the Internet at home and through mobile devices - Children in all four countries report that they most frequently go online at home. Access to the Internet through schools is not as common

  2. The majority of children learn something new by searching the Internet - Most children who use the Internet say they learn something new online at least every week.

  3. Younger Internet users lack the digital skills of their older peers - There is a clear age trend in all four countries in terms of children’s self-reported ability to check if information they find online is true.

  4. Younger children’s digital safety skills also need support - Most of the older children, but fewer younger children, report knowing how to manage their privacy settings online, a key indication of their digital and safety skills.

  5. A substantial minority of young Internet users have had contact with unknown people online - Between 19 per cent (in the Philippines) and 41 per cent of children (in Serbia and South Africa) have been in touch online with somebody they have not met in person.

  6. Argentinian children are most likely to report having been bothered or upset online in the past year - Between a fifth (in South Africa) and three-quarters (in Argentina) of children report feeling upset about something that happened online, with older children reporting more incidents.

  7. Countries vary in the amount of risks encountered and the balance with online opportunities - As many as one third of children in Serbia reported being treated in a hurtful way by their peers, online or offline, though in South Africa and the Philippines only a fifth said this had happened to them.

  8. Children are most likely to seek support from a friend, and rarely from a teacher - In all four countries, the most common source of support is friends – between a third and two-thirds of children spoke to a friend the last time something upsetting happened online. Few children confided in a teacher, and the follow-up survey questions suggested that few children had received e-safety or digital literacy teaching at school.

One of the conclusions of the findings suggests that, “children are generally positive about the opportunities available for them online. However, children do not use the Internet in schools as much as expected and they generally do not see teachers as those they could confide in about what bothers them online”.

The toolkit is being made available for researchers to utilise allowing the research to be broadened globally. The project aims “to connect evidence with the ongoing international dialogue regarding policy and practical solutions for children’s well-being and rights in the digital age, especially in countries where the Internet is only recently reaching the mass market”.

More information about the project and a full copy of the pilot research findings can be found at blogs.lse.ac.uk/gko/

Written by E-safety Support on November 03, 2016 12:04


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