Internet Safety: Children’s Views

24,000 school children have set out their vision for how to make the internet a safer and more enjoyable place, as part of the largest schools survey about internet safety conducted in the UK.The ‘Have Your Say’ research, commissioned by the UK Safer Internet Centre to mark the 10th Anniversary of Safer Internet Day on 5 February 2013, asked primary school (7-11s) and secondary school (11-19s) children what they enjoy most about the internet, as well as the aspects of being online that they find concerning. It highlights where children already play a role in enjoying the internet safely and responsibly and uncovers opportunities to provide them with greater support.

The findings offer a valuable insight for how government, educators, families and the internet industry can work towards a safer internet future. They will be presented to government and industry stakeholders by children who took part in the survey at a Safer Internet Day Celebration event in London later today.

Key findings were:

1. Primary age children are highly engaged with digital technology:
– The majority of 7-11s[1] (86%) use some form of online communication tool[2].
– Most 7-11s (94%) say they have little trouble finding information for their school work on the internet.

2. Secondary age children are prolific online communicators:
– 96% of young people age 11-19 use some form of online communication tool[3].

3. Seeing unpleasant or hurtful things online affects a sizeable portion of this group:
– 27% of 7-11s and 41% of 11-19s came into contact with something online in the last twelve months that they deemed to be hurtful or unpleasant – examples cited include: scary videos, pictures and chainmail; ‘rude’ things and swearing; violent films or games.

4. Young people’s exposure to ‘mean comments’ hinders their enjoyment online:
– 31% of 7-11s and 23% of 11-19s cited gossip or mean comments being shared online as something that stopped them enjoying their time online.

5. Privacy settings are welcomed and used by young people, but knowledge could be improved:
– 58% of 7-11s and 74% of 11-19s using social networks said they changed their privacy settings from the default settings.
– However, over 4 in 10 (42%) primary age social network users and almost 1 in 10 (9%) secondary age social network users were not sure if they had changed the settings or didn’t know how to.

Edward Timpson, Minister for Children and Families said, “We know how important it is that young people are safe and supported while using the internet, and that parents are confident their children are protected from accessing harmful content.

“We have already taken great strides to make internet access more family friendly and we will continue to work with the industry, parents and young people to build an even safer internet in the future.”

Will Gardner, Chief Spokesperson for the UK Safer Internet Centre, said, “In our research young people clearly stated that they should have the right to feel safe online and they also recognise they have a responsibility in helping themselves and others be safe online, whether that’s behaving kindly towards others or helping friends who are experiencing problems.

“We are delighted that so many young people have taken the opportunity of the survey to get their voice heard, and we hope it will act as a catalyst for encouraging individuals, families and companies to think about their role in ensuring the Internet is a great and safe place for children.”

He continued, “Safer Internet Day is a great opportunity for everyone to take a moment and reflect on how they are using technology, and this year to see if they are ‘Connecting with Respect’. This year we can see a fantastically wide range of activities taking place and resources made available to support the Day by schools, companies, charities and more, all supporting the importance of helping children be safe online and helping those supporting children with this issue.“

This year’s Safer Internet Day which focuses on the theme Connect with Respect will bring together hundreds of high-profile partners to host free events and provide free resources and programmes, both on and offline. Partners include the BBC, CEOP, Facebook, Google, Disney, Mumsnet, Sky, Microsoft, the Industry Trust, BPI and many others. A full list of partners and what they are doing to support Safer Internet Day is available on the UK Safer Internet Centre website.

The UK Safer Internet Centre, which co-ordinates Safer Internet Day in the UK, has also launched a number of online resources for teachers, parents and carers, which are available to access for free from the UK Safer Internet Centre website.

1] There is a rapid increase in use of technology from 7 to 11 years, with just 5% of 11 year olds not engaging in any form of online communication (compared to 22% of 7 year olds).
[2] Primary: social networks and virtual worlds (56%), chat functions in online gaming (38%) or chatting over a webcam (28%)
[3] Secondary: social networks (74%), emails (72%), instant messaging (68%), webcams (52%), chat functions in online gaming (45%), chat rooms (17%) and blogs (14%).

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