Expert reaction and comments from this year’s campaign to raise online safety awareness.
More than a quarter of parents believe their children have been exposed to online risks, that includes seeing inappropriate content or cyber bullying in the past 12 months, according to a Kaspersky Lab study.
Despite this, research to mark Safer Internet Day taking place on 11th February, has found that one in five parents take no action to govern their children’s online activity – whether on the home computer or mobile devices.
"Regardless of how their children are accessing the internet, parents must remain vigilant, supervise their internet use and consider parental control technologies. However, as a parent myself, I find these statistics particularly worrying when you consider the increasing number of children using connected smartphones today. After all, when children use mobile devices to access the web, they are using the same internet, with the same risks – yet parents are often not as aware of the dangers," says David Emm, senior security researcher at Kaspersky Lab.
Today’s Safer Internet Day, which is taking place with the theme of ‘let’s create a better internet together’, started in 2008 with the aim of creating awareness for internet safety. Nearly 600 organisations have given their support for this year’s event, including Microsoft, the BBC and Tesco.
Safer Internet Day is participated in across over 100 countries and aims to ‘inspire the safe, responsible and creative use of technology’. This year, over 600 supporters are taking part in the UK, and the initiative even has the support of the UK government.
Prime Minister David Cameron said: "I’m delighted to support Safer Internet Day and the work of the UK Safer Internet Centre. As a father of young children, I know how much parents worry about what their kids can see online.
Under this Government, we have seen progress, with the introduction of family friendly filters and Google and Microsoft clamping down on child abuse images online. There is nothing more important than protecting our children; Government, industry, charity and parents all have a part to play."
The Kaspersky study also found that 18 per cent of parents had lost money or data from their personal device as a result of their child’s unmonitored access. With smartphone apps often being blamed in the press for children inadvertently spending hundreds of pounds, effective controls and open channels of communication around smartphone use is imperative.
David Emm from Kaspersky continues: "There is a common misconception that smartphones and tablets don’t need the same level of protection as a PC, but with such a high percentage of parents not having a clear view of their children’s online activity, this way of thinking needs to change.
"The internet is an incredible resource, both for social use and in an educational capacity. But in the same way as we would teach our children to cross the road safely, we must teach them to be aware of, and respect, the dangers of the internet. Just because a threat is out of sight, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep it front of mind."
European Commission Vice-President Neelie Kroes, responsible for the Digital Agenda and for launching the strategy to make a better internet for children, recognises the need for all parties to be aware of dangers and how to counter them.
"We need to move forward, together: child safety should be about collaboration, not competition. That’s the best way to ensure a better internet for kids."
She goes on to add: "I hope that, on Safer Internet Day and beyond, we can deliver this better internet for children: a place with fun, creative and educational online content; a place where they can be happy and where parents can feel comfortable for them to explore."
Janice Richardson, Insafe Coordinator, said: "Over the years, Safer Internet Day has become a landmark event in the online safety calendar, and an action that has been taken up across the globe.
"With this year’s theme of "let’s create a better internet together", we aim to emphasis the role that we ALL have to play in making the internet a better place."
David Emm offered further tips to parents to help their children stay safe online. He said that parents should be conscious of in-built parental controls for smartphones, and to apply settings that prevent in-game purchases to save hefty bills. Finally, parents should encourage children to talk about their online experience and in particular, anything that makes them feel uncomfortable or threatened.
However, writer and journalist Jane Fae told CBR that the focus should definitely be on all ages, not just the younger users. It’s just as important to educate adults on how to use the web in a safer manner as it is to educate children.