"Online child abusers are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their forensic awareness to cover tracks" The Virtual Global Taskforce (VGT) Environmental Scan 2012 - Online Child Safety
But I hear you say…can my child be exposed to these sorts of abusers? Well if you leave your child unsupervised they can become a target. Many children are already engaging in risky online behaviour with most parents having no idea what their kids are really doing online or when using smartphones, tablets or PCs.
Here’s the thing. I speak to parents all the time about Online Safety and keeping children safer online and you know what? When it comes to technology it’s like a no go area - a somewhat glazed expression comes over their faces. As I see it, there is a big, no let me try that again - there is a MASSIVE disconnect between what Parents think their children are doing online and their actual online behaviour.
A study carried out by McAfee, which examines the online habits of preteens, teenagers and young adults found that 54% of the parents surveyed said that they just didn’t have the time to check up on their children’s online behaviour..
Now I for one, am not being judgemental, but as a parent myself, I feel we need to make the time. If we are going to allow our Children to freely use the Internet then we need to start understanding that the Internet is a place where children go. And as children they need to be educated to what is appropriate online and what’s not. As parents we also need to take the opportunity to learn more about what children are doing online and the dangers so we can watch for the signs and keep them safer.
Children are engaging in a whole host of different activities online – there are cases where they can and will get into danger. Did you know that as far back as 2010, 12% of all websites on the Internet were pornographic. What’s even more scary is that in this same year 1 in 7 ‘youths’ reported being solicited for sex online. Now that’s in 2010 - think of where the figures sit now.
In the opening of this blog post I mentioned briefly The Virtual Global Taskforce (VGT) Environmental Scan 2012 who are drawing attention to some very concerning developments which parents need to be aware of such as ‘Online child sexual exploitation is fuelled by compulsive internet usage among offenders and online networks of such people’ and that ’Offenders are paying as much as €900 for new child abuse imagery’.
I’m asking all parents who come across this blog to start thinking about this right now. This issue is growing rapidly and is not going away. As parents we can take simple steps in implement safety barriers in our home technology. Contact your childs’ school, ask the Principal to run a Parent’s Information Evening which will allow you to get to grips with how safety settings work on the major social network platforms, identify the warning signs and teach your child positive and appropriate online lifestyle skills to minimise their vulnerability to danger.
It’s not Rocket Science. Together we can help make a difference towards Online Child Safety.