The Internet is a wonderful invention with endless possibilities and opportunities. And for young people it has become a fundamental part of their everyday life. But the internet is rife with dangers and warnings, and letting children loose on the internet with no protection or guidance is like letting them loose in a sweet shop and telling them not to touch anything.
A few weeks ago, the ‘Growing Up Digital’ report released by the Children’s Commissioner said children are fending for themselves against online dangers, often signing away their privacy and agreeing to very unclear T&Cs – nearly 50% of 8 to 11-year-olds have reportedly agreed to social media firms’ vague Terms and Conditions.
And it’s not just their privacy they are compromising. In just a few clicks and without many (if any) checkpoints, young children are able to see graphic pornographic material, advice that encourages eating disorders and self harm, excessive violence and race hate material – a harmful impact on any childhood.
If that isn’t scary enough, the figures make for even more frightful reading…
We’re proud to be a supporter of Safer Internet Day, coordinated in the UK by the Safer Internet Centre, where hundreds of schools and companies come together to raise awareness of online safety issues. Last year’s event reached 2.8 million children and 2.5 million parents in the UK. The theme this year, ‘Be the change: Unite for a better internet’ brings to light a fundamental question: just how can we work together to make the internet better, and safer, for children?
“Websites need to take responsibility to protect younger users, providing peace of mind to children and parents. It’s critical that they invest in new security measures and innovations to make the internet a safer place for our children. The key point here is making sure only adults can access adult content, and we protect innocent children and their childhood. The Digital Economy Bill, which will force adult websites to include age verification checks, is one measure by the government looking to increase child protection online.” Robin Tombs, CEO Yoti.
We must do more until this law comes into effect. Children should be guided on how to use the internet safely, and not just educated from their teachers or parents, but from websites and companies too. This means having clearer Terms and Conditions that can be read, and crucially be understood, by children. Companies should also consider what data they ask for from users; only asking for the information they actually need. I’m sure they don’t need to know your past three addresses, as well as your mother’s maiden name and job role. All they really need to know is that you are who you say you are.