‘Digital delay’ leaves children at online risk – NSPCC and O2 to offer helpline for parents

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Parents are leaving it too late to tackle the issue of online safety with their children which could be putting them at risk of danger. That’s the main finding of a new YouGov survey commissioned by mobile phone provider O2 and the NSPCC.

YouGov, which interviewed more than 2000 parents and children aged between the ages of eight and 13, found that although 91 per cent of eight year olds use the internet, most parents don’t actually talk to them about online safety until they are at least nine – a delay that could be leaving children at risk from crimes such as cyber bullying and even online grooming.

Nearly two fifths of parents (39%) felt that children under 10 would be too young to understand the issue while around one in four (26%) believed the nature of the conversation would scare or upset them too much. Interestingly though parents seem rather more keen to talk to children about everyday ‘real world’ issues such as stranger danger and bullying from the age of seven.

Although a quarter (26%) of those parents who acknowledge feeling less confident about staying safe online because they don’t have the technical knowledge to give their child practical advice, it’s clear from the survey that the current generation of digital natives genuinely value guidance from their parents.

Of the 1,000 children surveyed whose parents had ever talked to them about online safety, nearly two thirds (60%) said that they had modified their online behaviour as a result.

Says Ronan Dunne, O2 CEO: “While the internet is driving economic growth and positively transforming the way we live and work, the simple truth is that, like the ‘offline’ world, the online world comes with risks attached.”

Adds NSPCC chief executive, Peter Wanless:Sadly we know that children up and down the country are struggling because of difficult experiences online. Thousands of young people contact us about issues such as online grooming, cyber bullying and after viewing sites which encourage eating disorders, self-harm and suicide. We need to ensure they are equipped with the necessary skills to protect themselves.”

The new partnership between O2 and the NSPCC is designed to give parents the tools, support and information they need to help their children explore the internet safely. The partnership includes a dedicated new joint helpline staffed by NSPCC-trained O2 tech-experts to give parents the technical advice they need to get the most out of the internet, including how to set privacy settings and parental controls.

Lines are open from 9am to 7pm Monday to Friday and 10am to 6pm on weekends and will be free of charge: 08088 005 002.

 

Chris Price