The NSPCC has today warned that the internet can be a ‘playground for paedophiles’ after a rise in children raising concerns about online abuse and grooming
Childline has released figures showing a 24 per cent increase over the past year in counselling sessions for youngsters worried about online sexual abuse.
There were 3,716 counselling sessions regarding online abuse in 2015/16 with most of those contacting the helpline aged between 12 and 15. 1 in 8 of the sessions related specifically to grooming, an increase of 21%
The charity has launched the #ListenToYourSelfie campaign to help young people spot the signs of online abuse and grooming.
Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC, said: “Most of us talk to people online and it’s a great way to stay connected and make new friends. But there are dangers. Young people may not understand what is right or wrong in a relationship, or what to do if something makes them feel uncomfortable, online or offline.
“#ListenToYourSelfie is aimed at helping young people recognise signs of being manipulated, controlled or exploited so they feel empowered to make their own decisions or choices. We hope that by putting this in the spotlight we can help young people to feel able to speak up if they feel worried or scared about a situation or relationship.”
So what can fathers do to help their children avoid dangerous strangers online? According to a guide compiled by NSPCC and O2 these are seven ways to help your child navigate the internet safely:
- Have the conversation, early and often – Children and young people spend an average of 12 hours a week online and it becomes part of their routine early on in life. That’s why it’s so important to have a conversation early.
- Explore online together – Ask your child to show you their favourite things to do online, and show an interest in what they do – just like you would offline.
- Know who your child is talking to – Children don’t think of people they’ve met online through social networking and online games as strangers, they’re just online friends.
- Set rules and agree boundaries – It’s useful to agree on some ground rules together. These will depend on your child’s age and what you feel is right for them such as amount of time online and websites they can visit.
- Make sure content is age appropriate – You know your child best, so check that the websites, social networks and games they’re using are suitable for them.
- Use parental controls – Internet service providers such as Virgin or Sky can help set up parental controls, as well as devices such as games consoles have specific settings.
- Check their privacy knowledge – Make sure they know what they’re sharing and how to use privacy settings on Facebook or other social media sites.
You can find more helpful information on online safety on the NSPCC website.