Parents are being encouraged to take an interest in and support their children’s online activity during Safer Internet Day.
Young people are defying the dangers that adults have warned them about and are still taking chances that could put themselves at risk online, according to new research. Six out of every 10 young people who make contact with strangers on the internet lie about their age, a new survey has revealed, and 43 per cent have online ‘friends’ they’ve never met in real life, says research to mark Safer Internet Day.
The survey from the childrens charity Kidscape interviewed more than 2,300 young Britons aged between 11 and 18 about their internet use.
The survey was held to mark Safer Internet Day today. Yesterday, Communications Minister Ed Vaizey also held a meeting with internet service providers to try to hammer out a deal on whether computers should have internet content filters turned on by default. It is expected that any announcements about that development will be made soon.
The survey results showed that currently one in two young people lied about their personal details on the internet. Of those, the one in eight young people who talk to strangers online are the most likely to lie, with 60 per cent lying about their age and 40 per cent about their personal relationships.
In a separate survey for online security firm Kaspersky Labs, YouGov found that as many as 43 per cent of people with internet access have online ‘friends’ they have never met in real life. Over half (54 per cent) of those aged between 18 and 24 have online friends they haven’t met in real life, identifying the possibility that young people today are sharing personal information from strangers.
Kidscape officials say their survey indicates that many young people adopt a different identity online,.
Peter Bradley, Kidscape’s deputy director and a psychotherapist specialising in adolescents, said: “We were alarmed by the number of risks being taken by teenagers online.
“We know that safe online behaviour is taught in schools and by other organisations like us, but teenagers seem to be unable to relate the risks to themselves.”
More than 45 per cent of young people interviewed said that they are sometimes happier online compared to their real lives. Forty-seven per cent of teenagers also said that they behave differently online.
Mr Bradley said: “These findings suggest that children see cyberspace as detachable from the real world and a place where they explore parts of their behaviour and personality that they possibly would not show in real life.
“We can’t allow cyber-worlds to be happier places than our real communities, otherwise, we are creating a generation of young people not functioning adequately in our society.”
A Europe-wide survey by EU Kids Online also found that a lack of discrimination in online relationships risked exposing vulnerable young people to sexual messages (received by 15 per cent of 11 to 16 year olds), data misuse (experienced by nine per cent of 11 to 16 year olds) and bullying posts. Although these were received by just five per cent of nine to 16 year olds, they were identified as by far the most upsetting.
The YouGov survey also found that parents are often unaware of what their children are looking at on their mobile phones. Around half (49 per cent) of parents with children under 18 who have internet-enabled mobile devices don’t monitor their children’s mobile web habits.
To mark Safer Internet Day, BT has also announced that it is revamping its online and printed child safety advice, providing a new service in association with McAfee that would cost consumers up to £120m to buy.
Jon Brown, head of strategy and development at NSPCC, said: “The internet has huge educational and social benefits. Children are often expected to research their homework online, as well as entertain themselves and socialise. However, the risks to their privacy and safety are very real. The NSPCC recommends filtering software and we welcome BT’s investment in providing advice and simplifying the way in which parents can control how their children use the internet.”