Friday, September 22, 2006

RM August 18 - Teens and the internet

Recent research has shown how internet usage and internet dangers has grown dramatically for our teenagers/kids over the last couple of years.

Consider the fact that 96 per cent of children use the internet as polled by the National Centre for Technology in Education site Then consider that one in 10 use some kind of instant messaging programme such as MSN, Google Chat or Skype. (If you do not know what these are, go look on the internet and find out.)

One in fifteen of those surveyed say they have met someone in real life whom they met on the internet. In 2003 that figure was one in 23. That is some jump and in a very short period of time.

Of those one in 15 – 11 per cent of the nine to 16 year olds surveyed – said they met someone they first encountered online who tried to physically hurt them. ALL those incidents of physical and verbal abuse were carried out by an adult who pretended to be a child.

This information alone surely should be a wake-up call for parents.

Anyone who thinks their kid is equipped to deal with people like this, who think their kids are going to recognise this, is seriously deluded.

The statistics show that a serious amount of our kids are, by their internet usage, putting themselves unwittingly in danger.

I recently read arguments from people who used the analogy of riding a bike to explain their point how parents should not be worried about their kid’s internet usage.

Their point was that children can get hurt on a bike so is this a reason to forbid kids from riding bikes?

As cute as this comparison is – for me it is just that, cute. For a start you wouldn’t send your child out on a busy main road to play on their bike in the same way that nowadays we make our kids wear helmets so they do not crack their skulls on pavements or whatever.

It is no different with the internet.

There is no doubt the internet has transformed so much, from how we communicate with each other to the endless learning opportunities for young and old alike. And I think it is great.

But like everything it has its dangers.

What I found shocking is that 50 per cent of parents had not talked to their children about the children’s activities on the internet.

I can understand that.

I am in my mid-30s, computers and the internet have been part and parcel of my whole working life. I have always loved it and as a result have probably pursued more knowledge on it than has been necessary for my jobs.

The technologies of the internet have always fascinated me and for many other parents I know this isn’t the case. I had my daughter young; many other parents in my daughter’s year at school are at least 10 or more years older.

For many of those parents the internet is a weird world they have no idea about.

They maybe can send an email but beyond that amounts to massive amounts of confusion and just not being able to get to grips with it all. They just do not know and in some cases have no inclination to explore the internet because it feels a world beyond them; it is the classic generation gap.

I have had all these internet danger worries with my own daughter concerning Bebo as some of you may remember from previous columns and I think I have bored her to death with it all but I do believe she has listened to me.

Ach who am I fooling she is only 14. She is not able to deal with the wiliness of someone who is intent in dubious dealings on the internet.

She is starting out on the internet and along with her email she is mad about u-tube, any internet time she has spent has been looking at music videos though this has all been done with me in the room.

I do hope though I have given her important information along the way.

Parents need to arm themselves with information. If you know nothing about the internet, with September coming now is time to look at those local community education classes.

What are you waiting for? Find a course on computers and the internet, consider that a challenge from me.

Go on the journey, learn more and arm yourself with information. You will be pleasantly surprised and it will bring you closer to your kids (whether they like it or not). And let me know via email how you have gotten on.

In the meantime if you are worried about any of the issues I have raised; make a start by going to and check out the advice and information there.

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