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 Safeguarding Essentials on June 24, 2013 15:40

The E-Safety Timebomb

On a day when the online dangers faced by young people are again at the forefront of the news, campaigners have been urging for detailed lessons on internet safety to be taught regularly in schools. This is because there have been increasing fears that children with access to the internet are being exposed to inappropriate sexual content.

3,745 counseling sessions were carried out by ChildLine last year; 250 of the calls were reports that children were being 'groomed' online. 641 calls were received about exposure to online pornography, with some callers as young as 11 years-old.

Claire Lilley, safer technology lead at the NSPCC said: ‘We are facing an e-safety timebomb.’

‘The internet and mobile phones are now part of young people's everyday lives. They are the first generation who have never known a world without them.’

The NSPCC says that schools need to step in as the issue is something that parents struggle to keep up with. They are also urging all internet service providers to provide easy systems to allow parents to install online blocks and filters in their homes (although here at E-safety Support, we also advocate self moderation through their own understanding rather than creating barriers).

Phil Bradley, of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, said: ‘When it comes to the internet... children need to learn how to use it safely and how to differentiate the good from the bad.’

And with so much bad at their fingertips, it’s never been more important to make sure pupils really understand the risks they are taking when they set up an online profile, or join a social media site. For many of these ‘digital natives’, the internet is as natural a part of life as sliced bread was to their parents! So it’s quite understandable that there is a need for knowledge across the generations. Naturally, school is the institution where this can begin, but everyone must take a role to keep the children protected, including the children themselves.

Written by Safeguarding Essentials on June 19, 2013 08:04

What do children really know about grooming?

Former Labour Attorney General Lord Morris of Aberavon announced that 27 police forces are currently investigating 54 alleged gangs involved in child grooming, in England and Wales - the crackdown on grooming follows the recent convictions of the sex abuse ring in the Oxford area.

Former deputy high court judge and independent crossbencher Lord Elystan-Morgan suggested that law enforcement agencies should be ‘prepared to adopt more robust tactics, including infiltration and surveillance’. Lord Taylor reassuringly stated that ‘the government is determined the system should work, the system needs to work, to protect these vulnerable children.’

Issues of grooming, especially over the internet, are becoming increasingly more of an issue. In 2012 1,145 online abuse cases were reported to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP).

Online sexual abuse is often conducted through instant messenger applications, social networking sites and webcams. In some cases reported, offenders hacked into victims’ accounts and refused to give their accounts back unless the child did what the abuser told them to do; demands then became more frequent, making the child feel trapped in a cycle. The offender may then ask to meet the victims in person, and the cycle will continue to spiral out of control.

Law enforcement authorities have said they rely upon victims reporting these issues, but many children, without being educated on what grooming is, may not realise what is happening at first, they may then feel stuck, helpless and not understand what actions to take.

As more and more children are gaining unsupervised access to the internet (through the assortment of devices which now offer web access), the issue of grooming could potentially escalate, and with no one there to safeguard them, they need to be taught how to safeguard themselves.

Here at E-safety Support we recognise the seriousness of the issue and how important it is that all children who use the internet understand that grooming happens so frequently. The ‘it won’t happen to me’ attitude is also an issue to address as well as the worrying reality that grooming is not restricted to strangers, but can also be from someone in a position of trust. Children need to be educated, in school and at home, on what grooming is, how to avoid falling victim to it (both online and offline), and what to do if they ever encounter grooming attempts. Teaching children this information will reinforce understanding and awareness of grooming and inappropriate contact and help them to avoid dangerous situations.

Written by Safeguarding Essentials on June 18, 2013 13:55

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