Christian Action Research & Education (CARE) has stressed that it is “vital” to ensure that children are safe online, and that social media sites do more to protect younger users.
“Websites and social platforms know an extraordinary amount about their users – including an awareness of the capacity for children to access their services,” Chris Buttenshaw, CARE’s Senior Policy Officer, told The Universe. “This awareness entails a duty of care, particularly where children are concerned, to ensure their services are used in such a way as to minimise harm.
“While the internet was not necessarily created with them in mind, today’s children are digital natives and have grown up in a world where online access is available in an instant,” continued Mr Buttenshaw. “It is therefore vital to harness the internet’s capacity for good by ensuring sufficient protection is in place for children to engage safely online.”
CARE raised concerns as the NSPCC warned that children and young people feel social media sites are failing to shield them from pornography, self-harm and bullying content.
Four-in-five youngsters told the charity they felt sites are not doing enough to protect them from inappropriate and harmful imagery and messages, with Facebook and Askfm rated among the riskiest sites.
Of the 1,696 11-to-18-year-olds who took part, 1,380 said social media sites needed to do more to protect them from inappropriate or harmful content.
However, Mr Buttenshaw also stressed that parents have a vital role in ensuring children’s safety.
“It is also vital that parents are equipped and able to communicate with their children about the potential risks of the internet and how to remain safe online,” he said. “There are fantastic resources available that parents can use to help aid them with this.
“The newly passed Digital Economy Bill is a crucial milestone in the fight to stop children being exposed to harmful content online, as explicit 18-rated material will be placed behind robust age-verification checks,” he explained.
“CARE hopes these measures will help to reassure parents, as well as enable children to feel safer about browsing online, knowing that they will be far better protected from explicit pop-ups and content.”
Peter Wanless, NSPCC chief executive, said the charity’s survey clearly showed that children do not feel protected from “upsetting, dangerous, and adult content”.
“It’s vital parents know about their child’s online world and regularly talk with their children about how to get help if they need it,” he said.
Picture: A boy looking at the Facebook website on his laptop. (Oliver Berg DPA/PA Images).