A good knowledge of computers, tablets, smartphones, the internet, apps, social media and other forms of digital technology is essential for children and young people growing up in the digital age, and will be an essential skill for many jobs, some of which have yet to be invented.
But our increasing reliance on technology also opens us up to risks like fraud, identity theft, scams, and viruses placed on equipment in order to 'hack' into digital equipment (to name but a few).
There are added pressures and dangers for adults, children and young people using the ever growing range of social media, websites and apps to meet and correspond with people they've never met in the physical world. For example, not everyone is who they say they are in their profiles, and as regularly reported in the media, some have ulterior motives.
The latest threats to children and young people include the influence of increased access to violent, pornographic and radicalising material, peer pressure, peer on peer abuse, and pressure from those who target children to provide youth-generated sexual imagery. More recently, there's been a rise in 'live streaming' of inappropriate acts, some of which involve criminal behaviour.
What can parents, carers, teachers, and other professionals do?
- Accept the importance of children and young people being able to use and understand digital technology
- Don't completely take away a child or young person's access to the internet, apps, social media and/or digital devices – their use of digital technology is becoming increasingly important to their future employment opportunities
- Help build 'digital resilience' in children and young people so they:
- understand and identify the risks and, importantly, recognise when they've made a mistake
- know where to go and what to do when something does happen
- learn from a bad experience, and adapt their behaviour to prevent it happening again
- recover - equip children with the skills to be able to bounce back from incidents which upset them
Please note, the above four point plan for building 'digital resilience' in children and young people is constantly changing and developing, and work is ongoing both at a national and local level:
- At Government level, the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) has developed a working group to identify and continually develop advice under these areas.
- At a local level, the Middlesbrough's Digital Resilience and Safeguarding Network* continually reviews national and local best practice in relation to building digital resilience in children and young people, and seeks to upskill parents, teachers and other professionals on how to build such resilience.
*The Digital Resilience and Safeguarding Network in Middlesbrough includes members of Middlesbrough Council, a wide range of primary and secondary schools, Middlesbrough College, various charitable organisations, and Cleveland Police's Economic Crime Unit and Cyber-Crime team.
Internet safety tips for children and young people
- Remember, everyone you meet online is a stranger, even though they may seem like a friend.
- Always use a nickname when you log on and never give out any personal details that would allow someone you meet online to contact you. That means your full name, home or school address, telephone number, personal email or mobile number.
- Never arrange to meet up alone with someone you make friends with online. If you're going to, make sure that you take an adult you trust and always meet in a public place.
- Try to have your online conversations in public; people are less likely to hassle you if other people can see them doing it.
- Accepting emails or opening files from people you don't really know can get you into trouble. They might contain viruses, nasty messages or links to things that you don't really want to see.
- Talk to an adult you know well and ask for help if you're worried or upset about anything you have seen or been sent online.
These tips were taken from the CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection) centre.