I always thought of myself as reasonably internet aware and understood the controls, that as a parent, I could put in place to ensure the kids did not access inappropriate sites. We even made sure that the computer was located in the house where we could see what the family were doing on the internet and monitor how long they were on-line.
However this week I have had my eyes opened by members of the Youth Assembly who are advocating for better awareness and more control. I learned about aspects that, to be honest, never crossed my mind. It would appear that I can put all the parental controls in the world on the family computer but this provides no protection if you access the internet or an e-mail account on a mobile phone. I am sure, like me, many parents knew about parental controls on a pc but not that they did not work on a mobile phone, so that means that your children could be accessing all sorts of internet sites via their phones.
As the week has progressed I have learned more and more about the serious problems we have in this age of technology. Did you know that paedophiles can make contact with youngsters via their Xbox and that within 2 minutes they can identify someone they would like to “groom”? The games are often played on line; therefore, other people joining in may not be actually interested in the game but the youngsters who are playing.
And so my education goes on – 38% of 11 – 17 year olds have received sexually explicit texts or emails; up to 25% of kids have seen adult images online or on TV, but half of parents don’t know; 4 out of 5 16 year old boys and girls regularly access “adult” websites.
Childhood is a time to explore and become in a safe, loving environment. It is foundational, setting their feet on a path. It is too precious to be stolen or hijacked. I therefore applaud the Church’s Youth Assembly who are championing a campaign to desexualise childhood - through internet protection and stopping manufacturers putting completely inappropriate slogans on t-shirts for children.
It is time we took a stand against the sexualisation of children - safeguarding their right to be children. It is our duty as adults to engage with technology and the marketplace, taking back control of what our children are exposed to and knowing how to help them protect themselves as they grow.