Encouraging online safety

Let’s start by acknowledging what a wonderful aide the internet can be to education, family time, communication and entertainment. When reading the list below it is worth bearing in mind that 44% of teenagers take their phones to bed and use them during the night.

Fegans would list the risks and dangers of the internet as the following:

* Sexting: Sending self-images to friends that can be widely shared via social media. This can lead to blackmail for further uncomfortable action or worse.

* Trolling: Being bullied online. Particularly pernicious because it is public, and via smart phones relentless, throughout the day and night. Common messages include “hurt yourself.”

* Pornography: The average age that boys and girls first see pornography is 11. 88% of pornography involves some form of violence towards women. Our children are at risk of being exposed to sexual violence and developing copycat expectations at an incredibly early age.

* Gaming: 18-rated games are routinely played by 12 and 13 years olds. The imagery and desensitising nature of this cannot be over emphasised, nor can the risk of addiction and exposure to online groomers.

* Online grooming: Peter Wanless, CEO of the NSPCC recently described the internet as “A playground for paedophiles.”

The inevitable question that arises from this is “What can be done?” David Cameron (when he was Prime Minister) recently said that Parenting classes should be an aspiration for everyone.

Fegans feels that the common denominator of the above isn’t just the internet, but how parents engage with their children’s use of it.

Practical tips for families:

  1. Discourage online activity in your children’s bedrooms. Leave mobiles downstairs, particularly during the night.
  1. Set clear online boundaries for your children and set parental controls to limit access to inappropriate websites.
  1. If your child is an avid or even addicted computer user (e.g. gamer) spend time in the room with them … understand.

If you are concerned about any of these issues, perhaps consider attending a parenting group or a class in non-violent resistance. Please see Fegans website for up and coming courses delivered by Fegans professionals. We feel that there also needs to be a national response. How do we engage with families that are already suffering in any of the ways above? How can we care compassionately for those who are crying out for help? We begin to address that in the next section.