POLICE have joined an internet watchdog and websites for parents in highlighting online safety dangers which can rise during the school holidays.
A new Mumsnet and Gransnet survey for the Internet Watch Foundation revealed that the greatest concerns raised related to children being exposed to sexual imagery, aggressive behaviour, “trolls”, bullying and violent images.
Grooming and child sexual exploitation were all mentioned as worries by those taking part.
The survey was commissioned to coincide with school summer holidays to raise awareness of child online safety.
The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) said it was concerned about the risk of child sexual exploitation via livestreaming apps and described how legitimate internet platforms could be abused by offenders intent on contacting children.
Parents and carers were warned that this could happen to any child who has access to livestreaming technology, so they should remain vigilant and know what technology their children are using.
But 16 per cent of carers for under-fours, and 28 per cent of carers for children aged four to six surveyed by Mumsnet, said the child they look after has used online video streaming without adult supervision, despite 81 per cent of carers overall saying they classify livestreaming without adult supervision as “risky” or “extremely risky”.
One in five said the child they looked after regularly or always uses the internet without adult supervision, rising to 68 per cent of carers for children aged between 13 and 18.
Seven per cent of parents and grandparents caring for a child under four say the child regularly, or always accesses the internet without adult supervision.
Mumsnet chief executive Justine Roberts said: “The truth is that unsupervised internet use by children is as unremarkable as unsupervised book-reading — for many parents it's the only way we can get anything done between the end of July and the beginning of September.
“It’s clear, though, that parents need more information about the risks of livestreaming, and guidance on how to address the issue with their children.
“Our survey shows that carers worry about almost every aspect of online activity — 67 per cent think it’s risky for children to use a search engine without adult supervision — which perhaps inhibits them from identifying and dealing confidently with the most serious threats.”
Susie Hargreaves chief executive of the IWF, said: “The internet has great educational benefits for children, but like any technological tool it can be abused by offenders intent on harming children.”
Det Chief Supt Chris Singleton, who leads South Yorkshire Police’s Internet Sexual Offences Team (ISOT), said the increasing use of the internet by children and young people as part of their day-to-day lives was exposing them to greater risks.
“It is a significant threat to our children’s well-being,” he said.
Mr Singleton said one issue coming to the fore was children taking intimate photos of themselves and sending them to others, who could be in a relationship with them but may go on to share them more widely.
“There have been cases where children have gone on to self-harm as a result,” he added.
For more information on teaching your child to stay safe online visit www.saferinternet.org.uk/advice-centre.
You can also find tips on online safety, including applying parental controls and how to report offensive material, on the IWF blog.