Safer Internet Day

February 7, 2012 by staff 

Safer Internet Day, It is worryingly common for children to suffer harrowing experiences online, More than half of children aged eight to 17 have suffered harrowing experiences online, yet just 25 per cent of parents realise this, according to internet security firm Norton. Today marks Safer Internet Day, an EU initiative adopted by member states and more than 70 countries worldwide to increase online safety – especially for children and young people.

This year’s theme of ‘connecting generations’ aims to encourage families to be more open with each other about what they are doing on the internet. With the growth of social networking, more personal information floating in cyberspace and the ability to interact with strangers, the topic is taking on greater significance.

The Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre tackles child sex abuse in Britain and receives more than 1,000 reports a month, including around a quarter relating to online grooming.

Peter Davies, the organisation’s CEO, says: ‘All we are saying is have fun online and enjoy the benefits the internet can bring but we ask parents to talk to their children and make sure their online safety is built into everything they do. Every day we see the effects on children’s lives when things do go wrong.’

Meanwhile, cyber-bullying reportedly affects 38 per cent of teenagers, yet 28 per cent keep their problems a secret, according to The Diana Award’s anti-bullying campaign.

Lauren, aged 15, from Blackpool, was bullied on Facebook two years ago. She was sent abusive messages and named in offensive wall posts over a period of three months.

Only when Lauren became close to breaking point did she confide in her mum, who printed off the evidence, informed her school and put a stop to the torment.

Lauren says: ‘Pupils would tag someone in an online status saying they did this or that, or tag them with horrible names, such as slag. I stuck up for them online, so they called me “loser”, swore at me, and called me names. Then it turned into comments about the gap between my teeth.

‘It made me feel ugly, I didn’t want to smile to show my teeth. I felt awkward and out of place. I felt I couldn’t hang out with my friends at school because the bullies were there.

‘I changed my privacy settings to just friends and deleted people who were being nasty. I didn’t block people before because I wasn’t aware of the setting,’ she says.

‘In some ways, I wish I’d spoken to my mum sooner but to begin with things weren’t so severe and I didn’t feel in any danger. I was just fed up. Then it got more hurtful and I hated waiting to see what was coming next. It really knocks you down.

‘I recommend only adding friends and family online, don’t get involved in other people’s statuses. Block anyone who is being nasty and whose newsfeeds you feature in. Blocking is the most powerful tool.’

The Norton report reveals parents’ biggest fears about their children and the internet is them giving out too much personal information to strangers, closely followed by acting inappropriately.

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