Research by Zurich’s Safer Schools Initiative has revealed that almost nine in 10 children falsify their age to access social media platforms and gaming services as there are no age verifications in place, while more than two fifths (43%) claim to have viewed inappropriate content, and 12% admit to being scared by someone’s behaviour online during the lockdown – a figure that rises to 15% among 16 year olds.
Led by online child protection experts Ineqe Safeguarding Group, the study also found that children as young as seven are lying about their age to get past age restrictions, with the average child confessing to upping their age by five years.
Twelve percent of children are interacting with strangers on the internet, and one in three (32%) have gone as far as to block someone. This statistic increases to 42% among children aged 12 and older.
Tips for parents and carers to minimise the risk to children online:
1. Make your home safer – ensure you’re using the best possible settings provided by your Internet service provider. You can access these by searching for them by name and adding the phrase, safety settings e.g. BT safety settings.
2. Ensure all the devices you use have the most appropriate safety settings. Visit oursafetycentre.co.uk/ to check.
3. Talk: Talking is the most important tool in a parent or carers child protection tool kit.
Ensure your child knows they can always talk to you. Let them know we all make mistakes and that whatever happens, you will always be there for them. In fact, reinforce that if they feel they can’t speak to anyone else, they can always talk to childline (they can do this online).
4. Before talking to them about any concerns you have about social media, apps or live streaming in general – do your homework. Research the issue yourself so you have at least a basic knowledge.
5. Don’t start by asking ‘have you tried this’ but rather ‘have you heard about this’ and allow them to show off their knowledge. Use this engagement to have a conversation about staying safe and work together to apply safety settings. This is also a good opportunity to agree on boundaries e.g. no devices in bedrooms.
6. Parents and Carers should report any concerns of grooming, sexual abuse and or sextortion to the local police or CEOP.