The internet and associated technologies have quickly become a part of everyday life and offer us access to the online world 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
This unlimited, and often unsupervised, access allows young people to be entertained, maintain contact with their peers, develop social skills and complete homework all at the touch of a button, click of a mouse or tap of a screen. As technology develops, young people are able to access the internet and interact with a huge range of services available through an increasing variety of devices, including smart phones, laptops, tablets, MP3 players and games consoles.
However as a consequence, there has been a marked increase in the likelihood of young people encountering inappropriate online content (such as sexually abusive and/or violent images) cyberbullying, identity theft or blackmail. Although many of these dangers are not new, the online world and associated technologies provide an easier route for those who wish to harm or exploit children, to initiate contact or to distribute indecent video clips or photographs of young people. In a recent survey undertaken by the Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) it became evident that children who felt unsafe online were 3 times more likely to have low satisfaction in respect of their lives than those who felt safe online.
The use and misuse of such technologies by children and young people themselves is also of concern to the LSCB and recent research reminds us that unsupervised and unregulated use in itself can have adverse effects on their wellbeing:
‘Increased screen time and exposure to media is associated with reduced feelings of social acceptance, and increased feelings of loneliness, conduct problems and aggression. Certain internet activity (social network sites, multi-player online games) have been associated with lower levels of wellbeing. The evidence suggests a “dose-response” relationship, where each additional hour of viewing increases the likelihood of experiencing socio-emotional problems.’ (House of Commons Health Committee, 2014)
Bracknell Forest Community Safety Partnership co-ordinates access to education, advice and support in respect of e-safety for children and young people living and accessing services within the borough and can provide useful links to a range of helpful resources.
Training and professional development is as important in understanding the risks associated with current technologies and a range of online training has become available in recent years and can provide a good level of basic understanding of the challenges and how measures can be taken to prevent abuse and protect children and young people.
The National Crime Agency’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) provides links to a range of useful resources, training and guidance in respect of reporting concerns.
The UK Safer Internet Centre, Childnet and the NSPCC also provide training and consultancy to staff and volunteers working with children and young people that can support the specialist LSCB inter-agency training available via our training pages.
Further information in relation to staying safe online can be found in the links and publications section of this website.