Safer Internet Day: protecting UK youth from online dangers

Safer Internet Day
Safer Internet Day

Children in the UK could be at risk when using the internet and their parents may not necessarily be aware of the risks that their kids potentially face when surfing the web. 

This year, thousands of organisations got involved to promote safe, responsible and positive use of digital technology for children and teens on 9 February 2016.

Safer Internet Day is organised by the UK Safer Internet Centre, coordinated by Childnet International, the South West Grid for Learning and the Internet Watch Foundation. It is co-funded by the European Commission's Safer Internet Programme.

WatchGuard has promoted the Friendly Wifi scheme to help children stay safe when using the internet by identifying public places offering secure WiFi. Children, parents and guardians can look for the Friendly Wifi logo to ensure that the network has been tested and verified to restrict inappropriate websites.

Intel Security surveyed 1,000 children in the UK and found that 28 percent admitted to having an online conversation with a stranger. Nearly a quarter of the children (23 percent) between the ages of five to 12 years old said they spoke to a stranger online. One third of children said that their parents do not supervise them when they use the internet.

Nick Viney, VP Consumer at Intel Security said: “Teaching children the best practices for safe online behaviour right from the start will be invaluable to them as they grow up. Safer Internet Day should act as a reminder to ensure we are all practicing good, and safe, online behaviour.”

According to the Norton Cyber-security Insights Report, which surveyed over 17,000 consumers over the age of 18, nearly all (89 percent) parents in the UK worry about the safety of their children when they go online. More than half (54 percent) of UK parents believe the chances of their children being bullied online are more likely than them getting bullied at school.

Research from CREST and the NCA's National Cyber-Crime Unit (NCCU) suggested that some young people most tempted to become involved with illegal online activities may suffer from unpleasant social pressures such as bullying or depression. The individuals may enjoy a sense of ‘belonging' that they receive via membership of hacking forums or other online communities.

The report states, “You are with people who are like-minded. The computer removes race, creed and sexuality. You're with people you can relate to.”

Kaspersky Lab conducted research on over 1,500 UK teenagers ages 16-19. The results indicated that 12 percent of those surveyed know someone who has been involved in what could be deemed as illegal cyber-activity. A third (35 percent) would be impressed if a friend hacked a bank's website and replaced the homepage with a cartoon. Ten percent would be impressed if a friend of theirs hacked air traffic control systems at a local airport.

“It's frighteningly easy for teenagers to find their way into the dark corners of the internet today.  Specialist browsers required to gain access are freely available online and discussion groups used by cyber-criminals are often open to outsiders,” said David Emm, principal security researcher at Kaspersky Lab.

Meanwhile in Ireland, Virgin Media has launched Parental Controls to help parents protect their children from age inappropriate material online. When parents activate the service, Virgin Media will restrict access to websites that include adult and pornography, hate, racism and violence. Almost all parents (94 percent) feel it is too easy for their children to view adult content online and 92 percent desire to restrict access to age inappropriate content.

“Schools, parents and guardians need to be more aware of the technologies available to give them visibility of what children are doing online and ensure they are accessing age appropriate content, while children need to understand that sharing too much personal information can make them more vulnerable to attack or cyber bullying,” said Jonathan Whitley, regional sales director, northern Europe at WatchGuard.