With many of the headline stories in relation to e-safety largely involving teenagers, it’s easy to forget that children as young as 9 are reporting to have met strangers both online and subsequently offline. Many also claim to have been bothered or upset by something encountered online including sexual images. (Source: Haddon, Leslie; Livingstone, Sonia; and EU Kids Online Network (2012) EU Kids Online: national perspectives)
Further statistics from the Ofcom - Children and parents: media use and attitudes report 2013 indicate that:
While these statistics are worrying enough, we must also remember that ‘internet access’ now comes in many forms, some of which may not be immediately obvious to younger (and indeed older) users. Take for example connecting to other players on a WII game or using an installed App on an iphone or tablet device. This is still ‘internet access’ and therefore the potential risks are inherent too.
Placing security controls on computers and using child friendly search engines are no doubt a great starting point for younger children, but these actions are not guaranteed to filter out all the dangers. Arming students with some basic knowledge at an early age will help to reinforce e-safety awareness for when their natural curiosity inevitably leads them to an online area of possible danger.
Amid all the stories of concern and risk, it’s also worth remembering that the internet does offer a rich environment for information and learning, so its use should be encouraged. As with many things in a child’s education, we must first show them how to do it safely under supervision, before letting them take control.