February 27th 2017
Culture Secretary Karen Bradly has announced a new Internet Safety Strategy designed to make Britain the safest place in the world for children to access and use the internet.
Announcing the initiative, Ms Bradley said: "The internet has provided young people with amazing opportunities but has also introduced a host of new dangers which children and parents have never faced before.
"It is increasingly clear that some behaviours which are unacceptable offline are being tolerated or even encouraged online – sometimes with devastating consequences. We are determined to make Britain the safest place in the world to be online."
She added that parents must "face up to the dangers" of the internet and be prepared to have uncomfortable conversations with their children about sexting,
Ms Bradley has commissioned Sonia Livingstone, Professor of Social Psychology at the London School of Economics & Political Science, to furnish evidence on the dangers children face online. Ministers will also hold talks with social media companies and technology firms, in an attempt to provide regulation and, potentially, penalties if they do not tackle cyberbullying, sexting and trolling.
Sexting is now a bigger concern for parents than smoking or alcohol abuse, according to a survey conducted by the NSPCC last September. In the survey, nine out of ten parents said that schools needed to do more to educate children on the dangers of sending revealing images. 78% were either 'fairly concerned' or 'very concerned' about sexting, compared with 69% about alcohol misuse and 67% about smoking. Figures also revealed that over 2,000 children had been reported to the police over indecent images. Most were thought to be young people sending the images to boyfriends and girlfriends, though some involved child abuse. Although in most cases the images are meant to be private, many end up being shared, either around peers, often resulting in considerable embarrassment to the subject, sometimes with tragic consequences. Others fall into the hands of paedophiles.
Another study – ‘Growing Up Digital’ carried out by the Children’s Commissioner for England in January 2016 – revealed that almost a third of 15 year olds admitted to having sent a naked photo of themselves at least once.
An NSPCC spokesman said in the Telegraph: “It might be difficult for parents to accept that their child could be pressured into sending sexual images of themselves, but we know from calls to Childline that it does happen and it can cause them to feel depressed, self-harm, and even have suicidal thoughts.
“Once a child sends an image, they lose control of it and this can lead to them being bullied or blackmailed. The image might even find its way into the hands of paedophiles or appear on paedophile websites.
“It’s vital that parents take the first step – even if it feels awkward – to talk to their child about sexting, and the dangers it can bring.
“The NSPCC’s website has lots of advice for parents on having these conversations, and children can talk to Childline on 0800 1111 about any worries they have.”