We all know the importance of keeping our kids safe online, and a new study suggests that a significant proportion of teenage girls, particularly those who have already suffered some form of abuse or neglect, are at risk of abuse at the hands of people they first befriended on the Internet.
Published in the journal Pediatrics, the survey found that 30% of teenagers reported having ‘offline’ meetings with people they had initially met on the Internet and whose identity had not been fully confirmed prior to the meeting.
Abused or neglected teenage girls were more likely to present themselves online in a sexually provocative way, thus drawing attention to themselves.
Research shows that high-risk online profiles are more likely to lead to offline meetings.
“If someone is looking for a vulnerable teen to start an online sexual discourse, they will more likely target someone who presents herself provocatively,” said Dr Jennie Noll PhD, a psychologist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. “Maltreatment poses a unique risk for online behaviour that may set the stage for harm.”
The study of some 251 adolescent girls aged between 14 and 17, of which about half were victims of abuse or neglect, found that having Internet filtering software at home made no difference in the association between maltreatment and high-risk behaviours.
Such behaviours include intentionally seeking adult content online, provocative self-presentation on social networking sites, and receiving sexual advances online.
On the other hand, “high quality parenting” and parental monitoring helped reduce the association between adolescent risk factors and these online behaviours.
As you might expect, during the research Dr Noll uncovered some chilling stories about the real dangers of meeting up with people first engaged with online.
The Pediatrics study was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health. Continuing work is funded by a five-year, $3.7 million (about £2.3m) federal grant to gain deeper data about high risk Internet behaviours.
You’d be forgiven that Blue Peter, officially the world’s longest running children’s television series at over 50 years and counting, might be in for a little rest when it comes to innovative techniques, but not a bit of it.
Proving that the programme is as cutting edge as it gets, next Tuesday (29th March) brings a special live 360 degree webcast of the show.
Viewers watching via the Blue Peter web site can control which view of the studio they see, thanks to YellowBird’s special six-camera unit. Five cameras film in different horizontal directions while a sixth camera looks upward. Software then stitches these images together to create the 360 degree view.
Tim Levell, editor of Blue Peter, says: “Children are now very familiar with 3D, so we’re going to give them a whole new technology experence: television in 360 degrees. They’ll get to see every nook and cranny of our famous studio. If only the technology had been around when Lulu the elephant appeared on the show in 1969!”
Blue Peter is currently presented by Andy Akinwolere, Barney Harwood and Helen Skelton.
All the information you need on Tracy Beaker Returns on our dedicated page.
Next Tuesday, 8th February, marks this year’s Safer Internet Day (more on that soon), and the BBC is getting behind the initiative on both CBBC and CBeebies.
Each of the 10-minute Tracy Beaker stories allows the user to choose from a variety of options which assist the main characters through the narrative, helping them to make decisions as various dilemmas are presented to them. The story will unfold according to the options chosen, with each choice resulting in a different outcome and ending. The episodes have the approval of Jacqueline Wilson, the bestselling author who originally created the character Tracy Beaker.
n addition the website will also host a live webchat with Saffron Coomber who plays Sapphire alongside an internet safety expert from Childnet. There will also be updated information on the CBBC Stay Safe section of the site.
At the same time, Dr Tanya Byron will write a blog for parents on the CBeebies web site about keeping young children safe online, while a Newsround special, “Caught in the Web Again”, highlights potential online dangers.
Come alone, Carmen
When Carmen is given a new smartphone she quickly starts using the social networking facility on the phone and becomes slightly obsessed with a new friend, “Joe”, to the detriment of her real friendship with Lily. As the drama unfolds, the viewer helps Lily make key decisions using the interactive interface. Will Lily let Carmen go and meet Joe? Should she go with her? Or is it best to tell Tracy what is going on? Carmen’s fate is in Lily’s hands, and also the viewers.
Sapphire is looking forward to a date with her boyfriend, Jay, when she receives a text message. It simple says “U R dumped”. The hurtful text messages continue to arrive, and her phone, once her prized possession, becomes a weapon in the hands of someone else. As she turns for help from the other children in the house, she finds she has been ostracised, and she doesn’t understand why. As the pressure mounts on Sapphire, and the barrage of hateful text messages continues, the viewer must help her stay in control of her emotions, and regain the trust and support of her housemates.
Beg, Borrow or Steal
Downloading music via the internet is now the number one method of acquiring music. In the final story, Liam and Frank want to have a party, and boastfully claim they will be playing music to everyone’s taste. Realising they have no music whatsoever; they explore the various options open to them. The interactive interface allows the viewer to persuade Liam and Frank to either follow a legal path, or delve into the murky depths of illegal file-sharing websites. Will the party be a success? Will they have the coolest music? And what will be the consequences if they don’t stay on the right side of the law?
Either the Web consists solely of pornography and other nasty stuff that they don’t want their kids to see, or it’s safe enough to let their children roam unmoderated.
Neither situation is true.
In an interesting, and welcome, twist, US adult film star Ron Jeremy has called for parents to install filtering software onto their computers to stop children gaining access to porn.
“Porn is definitely not for kids. Take it from someone who has worked in the industry for years,” he said at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
Leaving aside for the moment the rights or wrongs of pornography — something that was debated last Friday in the Mommy Tech area of the show — it’s extremely important that parents are vigilant when it comes to what their kids can access online.
This goes far beyond simply installing software, but also means that parents must talk to their kids, rationally and clearly explaining how to stay safe online.
The fact is, most kids these days are more web and tech-savvy than their parents, and many know how to circumvent filtering software. That’s why dialogue is also vitally important.
We’ve covered the issue of Internet safety in the past. Here’s a selection of articles you might find useful:
- Stranger Danger in the 21st Century: Internet dos and don’ts for parents and children
- UK parents worry about but don’t monitor kids’ online activities
- Kids doing stuff online their parents wouldn’t approve of
- Young children using online social networks, three-quarters of parents “spying” on them
- Parents failing to monitor children’s Internet usage
- Unique family-oriented broadband service offers peace of mind to schools and parents
- Computer sellers partner with NSPCC to guide families in safe practices
- “Mum Says No” software allows parental control over children’s online time, reduces confrontation
- Children’s advocacy group launches NetSmartz411 online safety programme for kids
By scanning their divorce petition database, they found that the word “Facebook” was used in 989 out of 5,000 cases sampled.
It seems that virtual infidelity, often starting with “inappropriate sexual chats”, have caused the most upset.
Of course, the research isn’t perfect by any means.
Firstly, this is from a scan of their own database, and therefore implies that their clients are technologically savvy.
Secondly, it only scans for one term, and doesn’t imply that use of such Internet services are wholly responsible for people filing for divorce.
Perhaps if there are already problems in a marriage, one or both partners may make problems worse by their online behaviour, but generally I think this would be a byproduct rather than the initial cause.
Having said that, it’s interesting that seven in ten Brits say online flirting is acceptable.
We also have interesting, albeit sensationalist, stories like that of a couple driven apart by online games.
So, I’m not surprised that Facebook and other online activity can play a part in marriage breakdowns, but it’s certainly not the sole cause in most cases.
For many, flirting by those already in a romantic / committed relationship isn’t seen as a problem, and even less so when it comes to doing it over the Internet. This is borne out by a new survey which found that seven out of ten Brits don’t believe there’s anything wrong in flirting with people online.
Ironically, the research was carried out by a web site encouraging online flirting. Of the 2,600 who took part, all of whom said they had a spouse or full-time partner, about the same number of men and women answered the question “Would you consider flirting online as cheating?” with a resounding “No!”
Many see this as harmless entertainment, but I’m not convinced.
Several years ago the phenomenon of online flirting was being studied, and Nathan Tabor wrote a great article titled Adultery is killing the American family which touches on how Internet usage can affect a relationship.
And do you remember the recent report of a Second Life affair which split a couple up?
Harmless fun or something more sinister?
I realise that there are such things as “open” relationships, and that flirting and eyeing other people up even when romantically involved with someone is often thought acceptable, but I’m a little concerned that 70% of Brits think absolutely nothing of doing it.
There’s something insidious about doing it online, too, because of the increased perception of anonymity.
Relationships really need all the help they can get, and I’m not at all convinced this developing trend will encourage healthy couples.
What do you think?
Photo by believekevin
Take a look through our articles about the Internet and you’ll already find plenty of examples of parents worried about what their children are up to online.
It’s not surprising, therefore, that another survey has raised similar concerns.
The computer security firm Trend Micro interviewed over 1,000 British parents and teenagers and found out:
- that over half of parents claim not to have a clue what their children are doing online.
- only 3% of parents are actively monitoring their child’s Internet activities.
- 55% of parents said they wished their kids would spend more time learning than on social networks.
- Nearly three quarters of those surveyed said they were worried that under-18s would lose essential face-to-face and English language skills as a result.
“The best way for a parent to overcome their fears about technology and what their children are up to online is to take the time to have a look at the technology their children are using,” said Will Gardner, CEO, Childnet. “Better still, get them to guide you through it. A conversation on how to keep safe and look after others online is a must.”
“Social interaction online is evolving at a constant and rapid rate and the digital generation know all the tricks of the trade,” said Rik Ferguson, security expert at Trend Micro. “With the summer holidays fast approaching, parents should put simple but effective measures in place to ensure their kids do not fall victim to unnecessary dangers. Parents need to become more tech savvy first before they can start educating their kids on what’s right and wrong.”
Trend Micro’s ten online safety tips are:
- Keep all computers in common areas.
- Agree to time limits for using the Internet and all social devices.
- Keep software security up-to-date.
- Talk with your kids about entering personal information online.
- Run a manual scan with your software security and check browser history.
- Set profiles on social networking sites to private.
- Encourage children to be respectful of others.
- Teach children to have multiple passwords that are NOT associated with names, nicknames or commonly found information over the net.
- Most importantly, keep informed about the latest outbreaks and dangers on the Internet.
- Buy Trend Micro internet security 2009. The latest software has enhanced parental controls. This means that parents can better tailor controls depending on the particular family member. New functionalities include the ability to control the date and time each child can go on the Internet and also the option to specify categories of information (such as home addresses, telephone numbers, passwords, etc.) they do not wish to be sent from a computer.
A new web site has launched — SuchASmartMom.com — which lets parents pool resources by asking questions of other parents.
Shrinking school budgets, crowded classrooms and fiercer-than-ever competition to get into college make it more important than ever for parents to be involved in their children’s education.
“As a mom, I understand all too well that parents have just 13 precious years to get their kids from kindergarten to college,” said site creator Ruth McKinnie Braun. “Such A Smart Mom will be there every step of the way as a trusted resource.”
Braun started Such A Smart Mom after more than two decades as a reporter and editor at The San Diego Union-Tribune. She’s a mother of two teens and a former parent group president with more than a decade of school volunteer experience.
Her extensive background in journalism shows through in the caliber of her reporting and writing. Her instincts as a mom and parent volunteer guide her story choices and bring a unique voice to her first-person blog that also appears on Such A Smart Mom.
“Our children can’t put their education on hold until the economy turns around,” Braun said. “Their time to learn is now. Fortunately, smart moms and dads can turn to Such A Smart Mom to help their kids get where they need to go.”
The BBC has expanded the reach of its incredibly popular online TV catchup service, BBC iPlayer, by creating a special version made specially for under-6s.
Though children’s content is readily available on the standard iPlayer, this version is not only more colourful and accessible for younger computer users, but will only show CBeebies content. This makes it much easier for parents to control what their children are viewing, particularly as it’s possible to add parental locks to various programmes.
As per the main iPlayer, most shows are available to watch for a week after broadcast, with series being available to catchup on for up to 13 weeks.
CBBC iPlayer, aimed at 6-12s, launched last year.
There’s a new online destination where kids and parents can connect in their very own virtual kingdom.
Kidlandia allows every child to be king or queen in their own fantasy kingdom with whimsical characters as companions, from horned Uniquills and scowling Grumps to long-trunked Yuhoos cavorting in Peppermint Meadows.
The child’s unique fantasyland online becomes home decor as a wall art map that displays islands, cities, mountains, and other features named after family and friends. The map is a legacy gift that can be presented as a family heirloom to decorate a child’s room, or ordered as a canvas scroll for sharing on a play date or at family reunions.
Kidlandia is the inspiration of Brian Backus, who started drawing the fascinating, illustrated characters that populate Kidlandia when he was just 4 years old, after being inspired by the stories of family neighbour Dr Seuss.
“Every child is enthusiastic about being the king or queen of their very own kingdom, with places named after a parent, brother, or best friend,” he said. “Kidlandia provides a personalized and safe way for parents and children to spend quality time online together, learning about and recording their own family stories in a kid-friendly way that then becomes a legacy. I wish my grandmother had one!”
Welcome to Family Relationships Magazine’s weekly roundup of news about the Internet, particularly as it relates to children and families
Adult games sold to British kids
Trading Standards recently discovered that a number of online retailers are selling “mature” video games to children.
“The teenage volunteer visited 16 separate outlets and found that a dozen of them sold games. Only U.K stores Gamestation, Game, PC World and WH Smith refused to sell the titles.”
Children dependent on Internet
A new survey has discovered that Taiwanese children are more dependent on the Internet than ever before.
“Cartoon Network, from Feb 24 to March 23, interviewed a total of 1,001 children (aged between 7 and 14 years old) and 1,001 parents in Taipei, Taichung, and Kaohsiung in order to find out more about the local children’s lifestyle habits. It released its survey results yesterday and found that more than 90 percent of child respondents use the Internet frequently, with nearly 50 percent of children whose age falls between 13 and 14 years old using the Internet to play online games, download music, write blogs, send e-mail or use instant message services on a daily basis.”
It’s inevitable and a trend that’s likely to be reflected in other industrialised countries across the world.
It reinforces the need for parents to remain vigilant when it comes to their children’s Internet usage, including setting rules and boundaries.
Twitter challenge raises money for UNICEF
Whether you’d heard of the “Twitter challenge” between Ashton Kutcher and CNN, or even cared, the real winners appear to have been children, as UNICEF announced on Friday that it has received $100,000 from CNN designated for the provision of insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) meant to stem the spread of malaria.
We’ve covered the subject of children’s usage of the Internet quite a bit already, as understandably it’s a subject of concern to parents.
Last year, a survey found that three-quarters of parents are spying on their kids online activities, despite another report suggesting that parents are failing to monitor their kids’ online habits.
Well, if the latest survey is to be believed, kids are still running rife on the Internet with their parents nearly clueless about what’s going on.
Bit black and white, eh, but then this was commissioned by a security software company (Symantec) so you might expect them to be pushing the virtues of their PC monitoring software.
In any case, their survey found that although three-quarters of parents are talking to their children about staying safe online, kids may still be bending the rules.
When questioned on how much time their children were spending online, parents answered with an average of 18.8 hours per month. In fact, the data suggests that kids are online for over twice that amount – 43.5 hours per month.
More worrying than simply how much time kids were spending online was that, when questioned, one in five said that they had looked at content on the Internet they knew their parents wouldn’t approve of.
“Having an open discussion with your children is something we really encourage,” said Marian Merritt, Symantec’s Internet Safety Advocate. “It’s not about coming down hard on them when they encounter inappropriate content, as the Internet is a great place to learn and to play, but there have to be boundaries. Kids in the UK are pretty Internet savvy, and parents need to keep up. We are encouraged by what we’re seeing, but there’s still work to be done by parents.”
Other interesting statistics from the survey included:
- 93% agree it’s their responsibility to protect kids online.
- 54% have set parental controls on web usage – the highest percentage globally bar India at 55%.
- 81% are confident they know what their children are looking at online.
- 31% of UK kids say their parents don’t know what they view online.
- 65% of UK parents feel very or extremely knowledgeable about discussing whether and when to share personal information on the Internet with their children.
- 16% of parents prefer to chat about sensitive subjects online rather than face-to-face.
There’s a load more information at the Norton Online Living web site.
There’s nothing like a bit of tech sex to sell tabloid newspapers, so the recent report that a wife wants to divorce her husband because he took part in virtual gay sex in the online game Second Life isn’t much of a surprise.
It’s easy to blame the Internet for all sorts of relationship problems, but as far as I’m concerned the reality is that anything can come between a husband and wife if the communication channels become blocked.
The trouble is that, while a husband’s uncontrollable urges for football or fishing or snooker or cars – or whatever other pastimes may take his fancy – can still be limited to some extent, computers and the Internet are available 24/7 and offer access to a huge range of things that could help to undermine a less-than-happy marriage.
Take the case of Lisa Best, as reported in the News of the World (not the most reliable of sources, granted, but let’s use this as a case study).
Lisa woke up in the middle of the night to find her “computer-mad husband … having virtual sex with another man on his laptop while he was in bed with her.”
For the uninitiated, Second Life is a type of virtual world where you adopt a character (called an avatar) and embark on adventures and relationships with other people. It’s escapism. It’s a fantasy, and one that many people find themselves increasingly hooked on.
John, her husband, said that there was no issue because it wasn’t real life.
She said “As far as I am concerned, having virtual sex with a man is the same as having sex with him in real life.”
He said “Second Life is just an escape and my avatar was just exploring things that I’d never sample – or want to sample – in real life.”
So who’s right?
Well, though I have my own views on this, I’ll attempt to sit on the fence and say that there’s no absolute right or wrong answer.
If a wife (or husband) is unhappy with how their spouse is behaving, then there’s a problem.
It’s not for me to say whether John Best fantasises about being with other men, though it seems strange to me that you’d entertain such things – even in a virtual world – for so long without having some desire for them.
For me, that’s not the main point of the story, though I can sympathise with Lisa that it must be causing her a great deal of stress, confusion and inner turmoil.
The main point is why is one member of the marriage so attached to something that their marriage is suffering?
Granted, John may not have realised that his marriage was in trouble until that fateful night – he seemed keen enough to brush off the incident when confronted. However, anyone with such an obsession is in real trouble of messing up significant real-life relationships.
The article notes:
[Lisa] blames John’s computer obsession for destroying their sex life and any social interaction they had.
“Sex became less and less until in the end he just didn’t want it any more. In the past six months we only had it once-and that was after I pestered him for it,” she said.
Houston, we definitely have a problem.
“Over the course of 18 months I basically turned into a computer widow. He was more interested in his Facebook and MySpace friends than in me.”
Think this is extreme?
At one level, perhaps, but don’t believe that you could never fall into such a trap.
I know that, in my own marriage, we’ve put in boundaries and safeguards so that neither of us ends up neglecting the other.
For me, it’s ensuring that I don’t continue to work late into the evenings.
It’s also about maintaining communication. Spending time on Facebook, MySpace, Second Life, or indeed anything else in itself isn’t a problem. What is a problem is when it becomes obsessive or secretive.
What do you think?