92% of kids socialise with family and friends online
62 % of kids aged 8 to 17 have had negative experiences online
55% of kids have made friends online*

Officially young people have to be 13 years old before they can open an account on the social networking site Facebook, however peer and social pressures are making tweens as young as 8 years old open accounts using false information and without the knowledge of their parents.

This has raised concerns among both police and experts that children and putting themselves at risk of cyber bullying and at the mercy of predators who trawl cyberspace looking for naive unsuspecting young people to engage.

Child psychologist and Generation Next speaker, Michael Carr-Gregg said children using social media was “one of the great unaddressed public health issues of our time”.

“Parents will spend a fortune teaching their children to swim or drive but not any energy, money or emotional effort to teach their kids to stay safe online.”

Young people spend an estimated 5 hours a week socialising with friends online. Added to this is the time spent online researching school projects, playing games, shopping and time spent on entertainment.

Though 90% of young Australians agree that the Internet has made learning much, 63% feel that email, instant messaging, text messaging and posting on social networking web sites or blogs make it harder for children today to learn to write well.

Robyn Treyvaud, who advises schools on cyber safety said “We make assumptions that because the kids are tech-savvy and know how to sign up to Facebook accounts without mum and dad knowing about it, they can do all the navigation of the technology, but they are not equipped to navigate the sorts of negative experiences they have when they go online.

According to the Norton Online Living Report, parents are more aware of the fact that it is their responsibility to keep their children safe online and worldwide about 70% are now taking steps to talk to their children, with 33% setting parental controls.

Supervision is innately difficult when it comes to the online world. Not only is the internet’s endless sites available to anyone with a search engine, kids can easily bypass parents altogether by logging on from outside the household. Nearly 2 out of 10 children go online at a friend’s house, making it very difficult for parents to provide supervision and protection.

Mosman Public School principal Kate Cooper has warned parents saying some parents were “unaware that children must be over 13 years of age to sign up . . . Whilst this is not strictly a school matter, we are very concerned about internet safety”.

*The international Norton Online Living report

Writer Helen Splarn. Editor Dr Ramesh Manocha
Source: Norton Living Report