Letter to the Editor.
NSPCC Northern Ireland
First Floor, Lanyon Building
Jennymount Business Park
North Derby Street
re: Concern Over Online Risks To Children Especially Over Summer Holidays
Every parent knows that keeping their children safe online can be a daunting and challenging task. It’s never more important than in the school holidays when children have eight long weeks to fill, which means more free time to explore the online world.
Already, this summer seen the arrival of the new Snap Map function on Snapchat. At the NSPCC we are concerned that, via this update, Snapchat is encouraging under 18’s to broadcast their location on the app where it can potentially be accessed by everyone in their contact lists. With public accounts, this will include those who are not known to the user.
This example highlights why we believe it is vital that children are automatically offered safer accounts on social media to ensure they are protected from unnecessary risks.
Children are increasingly contacting our Childline service telling us that they are being targeted online. Last year alone (2015/16) the NSPCC-run helpline counselled 164 children from Northern Ireland about online sexual abuse – including sexting, being made to perform sex acts on webcam and viewing distressing sexually explicit content.
And a survey carried out for the NSPCC found that 59% of adults in Northern Ireland did not know that social media sites like Facebook require users to be aged 13 or over. Shockingly more than one in five [22%] thought there were no age requirements at all.
These findings show that it is more important than ever for parents to know what their children are doing online and that it is vital that parents educate themselves about the world their children are inhabiting. Parents must have open and honest conversations to enable young people to tell them if they feel worried or scared about anything they’ve been involved in.
NSPCC’s Share Aware page can help facilitate these discussions so parents can ensure their child knows they can talk about anything that is worrying them online.
Our Net Aware tool can also give parents information and advice on the top apps used by children, giving them the information they need to start those important conversations, and our dedicated NSPCC/O2 helpline is available on 0808 800 5002.
Children can also contact Childline online or over the phone on 0800 1111 anytime.
The earlier parents start to talk to their children, the better. A series of simple conversations can be all it takes to make a huge difference in keeping their child safe when exploring the online world.
Head of the NSPCC in Northern Ireland.