Warning over “risky” behavior of under-12s online – and parents need to take action, safety group says

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Children indulge in highly risky behavior online – with nearly one in five 9-11 year olds having physically met strangers they encountered online.

In half of those cases, the children went alone – and 18% of pupils surveyed reported feeling “personally uncomfortable” or upset when chatting with an online contact they have never met in real life.

The problem may lie with the relationship between young people their parents, and technology, the British ISC2 internet safety foundation said, in a release coinciding with Get Safe Online Week. In a poll of 1,162 pupils, 15% said their parents never checked their online activities.

Thirty per cent said that they had never received information on how to use the internet safely, from any source.

Many also lied about their age on social networks. The poll, carried out across 15 schools in England, found that 32% said they were 2-6 years older than their actual age and one in ten claimed they were 5-9 years older. Additionally, 8% were using accounts which said they were aged between 18 and 25.

Among 9-11 year olds, 43% use the Internet daaily, while one in five use the internet after 10pm. One in eight admit to having been late to school, due to late-night computer use.

“Many school children know far more about the internet than their parents do,” said Tim Wilson, who carried out the survey for ISC2, according to the BBC.

“Youngsters actually participate in a lot of risky behaviours that I don’t believe the parents know about. Not because of any ill will on behalf of the parents, it’s just that the parents do not understand technology.”

 Wilson said, in a report by IB Times  “As a result, their perception of safety is skewed when spending time online. For parents, there is a strong call to action to ensure they are engaged in how their children use the Internet. 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.”

The most popular activities online were video games (23%) social networks (18%) and watching videos (17%). The most popular game, even among under-12s, was Call of Duty Black Ops 2, according to IB Times.

ESET Senior Research Fellow David Harley says the key to ensuring children use technology in a healthy way is a “gentle, guided introduction,” saying, “While I don’t advocate giving babes in arms immediate and unrestricted access to the cyberfrontier, it’s worth trying to give children a gentle, guided introduction: encourage them to try things, ask questions, and engage in constructive dialog: “It says here that…. do you think that’s really true? Should you therefore teach your children paranoia? Of course not: there are already too many people terrified to use computers.”

An in-depth ESET guide to how to keep children safe online can be found here.

Author Rob Waugh, We Live Security

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