Parents fighting losing battle over children’s web use

Parents face an uphill struggle keeping children safe online as internet use becomes pervasive and parental monitoring becomes almost impossible, according to a new report.

Parents fighting losing battle over children's web use

In its Risks and Safety on the Internet report, the London School of Economics researchers found that a worrying one in 12 children (8%) had met strangers offline as a result of an online meeting, and that parents could no longer prevent children from freely accessing the web.

“It’s very hard for parents,” the lead researcher Sonia Livingstone told PC Pro. “The old adage used to be that you should keep a PC in the living room where parents could keep an eye on what they were doing, but a large number now have access via a mobile phone, and half use a PC in their rooms.”

“If children want to access the web then they will find a way of doing so when their parents aren’t there, and children are using it younger and younger.”

Not surprisingly, younger children could be more at risk and although nine to ten year olds were the least likely to have met an online contact offline, they were most likely to have been upset by the experience, with four out of ten “bothered by what happened at the meeting”, according to the survey.

The study, which questioned 23,420 nine to 16 year olds across Europe, found half the respondents had access to the web in their bedrooms and 31% had an internet mobile handset.

Livingstone also cautioned that children were increasingly exposed to graphic sexual or violent content due to the networked nature of the modern playground.

“There is a lot of content that is circulated among children that is gruesome and some children find upsetting,” she said. “One person might find a site and then it is passed around, with people saying ‘Have you seen this one,’ and passing it on.”

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