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 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

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

Written by E-safety Support on January 22, 2015 13:37

E-safety Review of 2014

Governor Training 8In the final E-safety Support article of the year, we thought it would be an ideal opportunity to look back at some of the major news stories and events that have shaped the world of e-safety during 2014.

In January, the Christmas sales figures reported the huge increase in sales of tablet devises, changing the way many young people interact with the online environment. Unsurprisingly then, the biggest trend on display at the 2014 Bett show was that of implementing these devises into education.

February saw the 11th annual Safer Internet Day. Activities were held across the UK and reached millions. We are of course, looking forward to the event again in 2015. February also saw the fleeting internet craze, Nek-Nominate. This saw many young people taking sometimes fatal risks in order to go one better than their predecessors in this online phenomenon.

In March, a new NSPCC report found that 28% of children aged 11-16 with a profile on a social networking site have experienced something upsetting on it in the last year. In other news, teachers too were once again recognised by unions as needing ‘rules’ for social media usage. However, the positive side of social media was also recognised when the ‘no make-up selfie’ campaign raised millions for charity.

At the beginning of April, Ofsted released their latest inspecting e-safety briefing document containing suggestions for good and outstanding practice in this area. This report was to be later removed from the public domain, although the requirement for a robust e-safety provision in schools was still very much on the Ofsted agenda.

May saw the emergence of ‘Creepshots’, websites that operate like social networking media sites where members are encouraged to post photos that have been taken possibly without consent or knowledge of the person in them. May was also the month when the European Union set a major precedent over what is now referred to as the "right to be forgotten".

Slenderman made an appearance in June, the disturbing Internet creation that is being blamed for a series of near fatal stabbings. In other news in June, Facebook announced plans for a platform for children under 13 to have social networking profile. A report from AGV found that almost 80% of parents blame the Internet for forcing the 'Facts of Life' conversation. It was also suggested that contrary to popular opinion, children's unorthodox spelling and grammar while texting does not stop them learning the rules of formal English.

July saw the launch of Friendly WiFi. Friendly WiFi is the world’s first accreditation scheme designed to verify whether a business’ public Wi-Fi service meets a minimum level of filtering to block out access to pornographic and child abuse websites. This brand new service aims to protect young people when they access the Internet using Wi-Fi hotspots in cafes, restaurants etc.

In August, a study by Oxford University saw the positive side of gaming, suggesting that playing video games for a short period each day could have a small but positive impact on child development. Also in August, Ofcom announced figures which suggested that six-year-olds understand digital technology better than adults.

In September, The Telegraph reported that parents feel more confident talking to their children about notoriously tricky topics like the birds and the bees, puberty and race than they do about how to use the internet safely – and some plan to avoid it, despite admitting its importance. In related news, parents were encouraged to pay more attention to the apps their children download after new research found that nearly a third do not monitor the downloads their children make to their smartphones.

News in October reported that teenagers sending each other sexually explicit messages and images – known as sexting – is increasingly becoming a “normal” part of growing up. However, they were also warned about the risks and potential legal issues surrounding sexting. It was also in October when the leak of images from the popular app Snapchat (which became known as the ‘Snappening’) put the privacy of many young people at risk.

As we reached November, many schools and organisations geared up for Anti-Bullying Week. With more and more children owning mobile devices and spending longer online and on social media, cyber bullying is becoming one of the most common forms of bullying. The annual event organised by the Anti Bullying Alliance saw many activities across the UK.

And finally, in December, the Prime Minister spoke at the #We Protect Children Online summit to commit to tackling online safety. David Cameron revealed details of 3 main strategies to tackle online child exploitation; blocking internet search terms, identifying illegal images and Global child protection and laws.

Looking back, it’s been an eventful year, with the world of e-safety evolving and online trends coming and going in a flash. We expect 2015 to be no different, so will be continuing to support you and your school with up-to-date news and information about the e-safety issues that affect you.

Written by E-safety Support on December 18, 2014 14:04

Stranger Danger

If I was to say that I am a 17 year old member of an up-and-coming boy-band who will be possibly performing on ‘X Factor’ next month and that I have trendy blonde hair and like fashionable clothes and music, you would be forgiven for being ever so slightly suspicious that I may not be telling the truth. That is because, being adults, we have learned to question things that we are told by strangers and treat them with a healthy degree of suspicion and scepticism. It is a defence mechanism that we learn in order to reduce gullibility and maintain self-preservation of ourselves and our possessions.

Children and young people, however, have yet to gain these abilities are naturally very trusting and possess a naivety that, unless they have had personal experiences to the contrary, allows them to automatically think the best of people and implicitly believe no harm will come to them at the hands of grown-ups. This innocence is the reason why parents and other responsible adults are constantly warning youngsters of the dangers of talking to strangers.

In the pre-internet age, it used to be easy for adults to protect children against the potential of predatory strangers. As a young child, I lost count how many times my father or mother reiterated to me that I should “never talk to strangers”. As I progressed into my teenage years, however, the temptation to talk to ‘cool-looking’ people increased, coupled with my thought processes along the lines of “…what did my parents know anyway? They were old and definitely not-cool!”

These days, where kids have access to a variety of connected digital devices, it has become more difficult for parents and teachers to monitor young people and ensure that they are not talking to, or befriending inappropriate adults on the internet. This is especially problematic when you take into consideration some of the risky practices that young people engage in on social media such as ‘friend collecting’ - the practice of asking anyone and everyone to become ‘friends’ on ‘Facebook’ etc., in an effort to appear popular.

This can be addressed by educating them about how easy it is for a predatory adult to assume a false identity online in an attempt to become their ‘friend’ and therefore trustworthy. Unfortunately, however, even students who have received lessons on internet safety can still be drawn in by strangers who cleverly use ‘textspeak’ and the ‘slang’ language adopted by young people to ensnare trusting teenagers. Recently, the TES newspaper reported on a study of 785 secondary students that demonstrated that young people regularly make assumptions about the gender of online strangers based on the language they use and the subject matter discussed. The report highlighted that conversations about shopping or boyfriends are often enough for teens to quickly conclude that the online stranger they are conversing with is female, whereas discussions about football, where perhaps swear words are used, usually is enough to prove the online acquaintance is male.

Only last week, there was a heart-breaking report in the media that, only too well, highlights why young people should never go and meet a stranger that they have met online, in person. Breck Bednar was an intelligent, thoughtful and clever 14 year old, who went to meet a man that he had become friends with whilst playing online games. He tricked his parents into believing that he was going for a sleep-over at a friend’s house nearby but, instead, he travelled by train to the home of 19 year old Lewis Daynes. He was later found stabbed to death in Daynes’ flat.

It is worth pointing out that his vigilant mother was aware of and realised that Daynes was trying to control Breck via the internet and highlighted the obvious lies and deceptions to her son, however, he elected to overlook them and go and secretly meet Daynes with tragic consequences.

It is now no longer a reasonable excuse for parents to claim that due to their own technology short-comings, they haven’t got a clue what their child is up to online and who they are talking to. We need to constantly educate, not only children about internet safety, but those responsible for kids, whether they be parents, guardians or teachers about how to monitor young people’s online behaviour. What are the signs of secrecy to look out for, talk to them about internet safety and the reasons for responsible online activity. Parents should pay attention to who their children’s friends are and show interest in any new friends they may talk about and despite the inevitable protestations, be aware of who they are ‘friends’ with on social media and gaming chatrooms and, most importantly, ensure they have set up all of the correct privacy settings on their different online accounts.

If you would like to share your thoughts on this topic, please use the comments section below.

Written by Steve Gresty on December 04, 2014 09:58

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