At least one country is doing its best to educate children on the dangers the internet poses to them. However, it may be difficult to convince today’s generation that there even is a problem. Teaching parents about the dangers posed in cyberspace is almost as daunting a task.
The New Zealand Police, NZ Telecom and Netsafe are providing parents and caregivers with a resource that provides straightforward advice about how to keep their children safer in this environment. The ‘Keeping Kiwi Kids Safer in Cyberspace’ pamphlet outlines the risks that children and young people face, ranging from being bullied by text or email to receiving unwanted materials online.
Kate Horler, who leads Telecom’s security initiatives for Home internet users, says that while children are quick to pick up on the benefits of the internet, mobile phones and other devices they are often less aware of the risks.
“If parents aim to understand the internet they can help their children explore and enjoy cyberspace to its best potential while also being mindful of how to stay safe.”
More than half of New Zealand teens say they spend two hours or more a day on the Internet and texting friends. The growing range of communications technologies is creating unprecedented opportunities for young people to learn, be entertained, interact with friends and family, and meet new people in cyberspace. But it also opens them up to undesirable elements, potential bullying and even abuse.
Straightforward tips range from keeping the computer children use in the family living area, with the screen in full view, to links to sites for tips on safe surfing and for free security software.
Internet and mobile phone communication are a normal part of life for young people. If young people think their technology will be removed if they report a bad experience they are unlikely to confide in an adult, and instead try to manage the situation themselves.
Superintendent Bill Harrison, National Manager youth services for NZ Police says information and advice is included in the work program that Police Education Officers deliver to schools, where it sits well with Police’s bullying prevention program called Kia Kaha.
“As Police, we want to see all public spaces are safe places for children. The internet is the largest public space our kids visit and they need guidance and information to navigate it safely.”
In a survey conducted by the University of Auckland Faculty of Media and Health Sciences conducted a survey of 9,000 students from 96 secondary schools throughout New Zealand and the 2009 Telecom Netguide Broadband Survey, the following statistics emerged about children and the Internet:
- Almost 20 percent of young people have been sent a nasty or threatening message by mobile or the Internet;
- Girls are almost 10 percent more likely to receiving nasty or threatening messages than boys, at 24 percent compared with 15 percent;
- At a maximum, 25 per cent of parents of children under 18 control/monitor their children’s internet activity;
- 12 percent of people have pretended to be someone else online;
- 8 percent of people have been victims of cyber bullying.
It seems to have taken an inordinate amount of time for the dangers exposed to children in the internet to become exposed. Attempts by regulators and governments to filter out socially undesirable content has either been stonewalled by civil libertarians or failed outright.
Baby boomers were taught not accept sweets or rides from strangers, but how can we warn today’s Generation Y of cyberspace dangers effectively. Educating today’s children is only part of the solution but these efforts in New Zealand deserve exposure and will hopefully trigger similar activities in other countries.
Copies of Keeping Kiwi Kids Safer in Cyberspace can be downloaded at www.telecom.co.nz/safesurfing.