Warning to parents as survey suggests many primary pupils at risk online
One in five respondents to study of primary pupils claimed to have met someone they had only previously known online
Almost one in five primary school age children who responded to a survey on internet use claimed to have met somebody they had only previously known online. Half of those children said they went alone to meetings in parks, cinemas, fast food restaurants, shopping centres and private addresses. For those who did take somebody with them, half of companions were parents.
A sizeable majority of the children who took the survey were aged between nine and 11 and a significant minority were also regularly awake into the small hours on computers in their bedrooms and were never supervised by their parents.
Almost a fifth said they had never received any training on safe internet usage – and of those who had, 12% said they found the safety lessons to be useless. Many were claiming to be years older online than their true age.
There may have been some bravado in the answers – 5% claimed they were representing themselves online as aged 26 or over – but it was clear many were able to find their way around the age limits on many sites. A third said their parents had set up their accounts, but 32% were claiming to be 13-15, 10% 16-18, and a further 7% got round the restrictions by using the accounts of older friends or siblings.
Although 18% said they were only allowed to use their social network accounts with parents present, and a further 67% said parents sometimes or regularly looked at what they did online, 15% said their online lives were never checked.
The survey involved 1,162 children in 15 primary schools, all in the south-east or Guernsey. It was started by Tim Wilson, an information security professional and school governor. He was sufficiently concerned at the results from his own school that he extended his survey to other schools where he was introducing the Safe and Secure Online programme, in south-east London, Kent and Guernsey. The results, he said, should be a call to action for parents.
“Bringing the family computer into the living room and having open conversations about potential online dangers will help them play a more active role in the relationships children are increasingly starting online. Parents should ensure their child is comfortable enough to discuss seeing something they shouldn’t online. For teachers and schools, the results point to an urgent need for more education on internet safety to pupils, staff, and parents, especially with Ofsted monitoring pupil attendance and lateness.”
Of the respondents, 7% claimed to have been online after midnight on a school night. As a result, 12% admitted to being late for school and 3% had missed a day.