Do you feel there are more benefits to children using the internet than there are risks?
Well, depending on your answer, you might not be alone. According to 2019 research carried out by Ofcom, fewer parents now feel that the benefits of their child using the internet outweigh the risks compared to research carried out five years ago.
Children and parents: Media use and attitudes report 2019
We all know the internet is a fascinating place for young people, and it’s becoming more and more of a feature in children’s lives by the minute. However, with so much potential for harm online, whether that comes in the form of bullying or grooming, viewing harmful or hateful content, or following online trends that aren’t so wise offline, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for many adults to feel that their children are benefitting from the internet more than they are at risk from using it.
This finding comes as part of a new publication from Ofcom, “Children and parents: Media use and attitudes report 2019”, published on 4 February 2020, which details evidence on media use, attitudes, and understanding among children and young people aged 5 to 15 years, as well as the media access and use of toddlers aged 3 to 4 years. It’s really interesting information and offers some insightful statistics about how young people in the United Kingdom interact with the internet.
Why should information about how young people use the internet matter to us?
If you work with children and young people, it’s likely you already have a professional duty to complete regular online safety training. These findings really help to highlight exactly why it’s important to prioritise online safety, not only at work but all of the time.
For a start, it might be a shock to learn exactly how much the internet is becoming more of a feature in young people’s lives. Did you know, more children aged between 5 to 15 years now watch online video-on-demand services (such as YouTube, Netflix, or the online streaming services offered by ITV or the BBC) more than they watch live television?
In fact, according to the research, a quarter of children in the United Kingdom don’t even watch live television at all.
So, why is this important?
Well, if you’re familiar with platforms such as YouTube, you’ll know that content can be uploaded by anyone. While there are restrictions and filters in place to remove any harmful content from the internet, the processes aren’t always straightforward, and a lot of damaging content can slip through the net quite easily. With the thousands of hours of video uploaded to such platforms every week, it would be humanly impossible for a team to screen everything.
For children, this is of course a worry. Young people do not always have the reasoning skills to know the difference between harmful content and “normal” content, so they could be exposed to inappropriate videos that might pose a risk to their wellbeing and the safety of themselves and others. Unlike watching live television, it’s much more likely that a child will come across harmful content on the internet, so you need to be prepared to deal with this.
Online safety training is essential when it comes to empowering young people to stay safe online
It’s not easy, but it is important to teach children the difference between acceptable, safe content, and content that could be harmful to them. Anything that makes them feel unsafe or uncomfortable, or anything that doesn’t feel “right” in any way, should be reported and they should stop watching it. The same goes for any content that could bring harm or hate towards anybody else, or any group of people.
However, the Ofcom findings note that children’s critical understanding has increased. Particularly when it comes to “vloggers” and endorsements (for example, when a vlogger is paid to advertise a brand or product), children’s awareness of this has increased. But it is important to remember that this does not mean every child will be able to apply a critical understanding to all of the content they come across online.
We shouldn’t only be concerned about the content children are watching, however. It is possible for children to be watching perfectly “safe” content but still be at risk in other ways. For example, many online platforms and streaming services have comments sections or other ways for users to communicate with each other. There is no saying who might be on the other end of the screen posting harmful content in these comments sections, or even trying to contact children directly.
We can help you to empower yourselves and others to stay safe on the internet
Fortunately, as experts in safeguarding, here at the Child Protection Company, we understand the importance of empowering children, and the adults who work with them, with the knowledge to keep themselves and others safe online.
We have developed an online safety training course to fit in with our bestselling safeguarding courses, suitable for most staff in education, including teachers. This e-Safety Training course takes an in-depth look at online safety and what you can do in the classroom and beyond to instil a good knowledge of online safety in your students. It also covers how to include parents and carers in your mission to keep all students safe on the internet.
What’s more, we’ve even developed a course specifically for parents and carers too. Our e-Safety for Parents course complements our e-Safety Training course with helpful information for parents, so that the online safety message can be delivered at home as well as in school, enabling you to take a whole-community approach to online safety.
Want to learn more about verifiable online safety training?
For more information about our online safety training courses, or if you’d like to speak to a member of our friendly customer support team about any of our other online safeguarding training courses, please get in touch today. You can call our office on 01327 552030, or you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, why not use the live chat feature available on this website to chat to us during office hours?
The Child Protection Company offices are open from 9am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday.