6 guidelines for parents to ensure children’s safety online

4 Nov 2014

The latest report from the EU Kids Online network suggests children are more private about their internet browsing, but the organisation is encouraging parents to teach their youngsters about internet use.

The EU Kids Online network’s research spanned 2011-2014. The survey of 25,000 children aged 9-16 across Europe found they are becoming more private about what they are browsing online, but the children themselves expressed concern about the content they were viewing.

Compared with the previous survey, this report’s findings show that children are now more likely to be exposed to content that can be both hateful and inappropriate for anyone aged 9-16.

In particular, 20pc of children aged 11-16 surveyed had been exposed to some form of hate messaging, up from 13pc in the last survey, while their exposure to pro-anorexia websites had increased from 9pc in the previous survey to 13pc in this year’s results.

Pornography remains children’s greatest concern online, the survey found, while gory violence, particularly real violence, followed closely behind.

Despite these challenges, the EU Kids Online network has iterated that the findings show a growing need for parents to let their children create more open dialogues with them, and asked parents to teach their children more about the benefits of the internet.

Admissions from the children on what made them feel concerned online. Image via EU Kids Online report

Dialogue, not filtering, is key

The report stresses, however, that this dialogue does not entail placing internet filters on children’s computers. The research suggests this method has no impact on the type of content children are finding online, because filters are usually placed for younger children who use the internet much less frequently than older children.

To better support children online, the EU Kids Online network recommends:

  1. Support children’s exploration of the internet from an early age and inform them about the benefits and the risks that the internet offers.
  2. Focus on enhancing children’s opportunities, coping skills and resilience to potential harm.
  3. Think less about risk and focus instead on engaging, fun activities and positive content.
  4. Communicate regularly with children about what they may find problematic online.
  5. Be clear about expectations and rules relating to online behaviour.
  6. Treat media coverage concerning online risks critically.

Parent with child on the internet image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic