By Laju Iren
WONT he break it?’ Barely five years ago, if anyone saw your toddler with a smart phone or tablet, that’s exactly what they would say. But today, it is a given that children are good with technology. Although it is nearly impossible to believe that this is not as a result of some genetic make-up peculiar to any child born after Facebook, the ubiquitous presence of technology today ensures that more and more children are crawling around the online space.
In fact, according to a recent survey, the average age of children online is three years old. In many ways, this is a great thing. Access to the internet means that children born in this generation are more likely to be smarter than any other generation before them. But shocking statistics reveal a more sinister side to this story.
A recent survey by Netmums.com of 2000 children from ages 11 to 16 disclosed that parents are rarely aware of their children’s internet activity. While three quarters believe their child spends less than an hour a day online, children admit that they are actually surfing the web for an average of two hours a day. More than a third begin to feel “angry and grumpy” if they cannot get online whilst one in five expressed concerns that they spend more time in the virtual world than with real people.
While more than half said they had accidentally accessed inappropriate content online, one in 11 admitted looking for it deliberately. A quarter said they had accessed eating disorder sites and one in five had looked at self harming websites. More than one in ten admitted viewing suicide sites and child abuse images.
Almost one in five admitted that had “thought about” trying what they had seen online but 98 per cent of parents who knew their children had accessed inappropriate material had no idea they had been influenced by it. One in 20 revealed that they had met up with a stranger they first met on the internet.
Another study by the BBC learning poll is as shocking. About 20% of children surveyed said they had put pressure on someone else to act negatively online. 47%, said they had looked at something online that they thought their parents would not like them to see. While 14% admitted to sending pictures of themselves, or others, that their parents would not like them to share. And nearly one in 10 had signed up to websites or services not meant for their age group. Among 14- to 16-year-olds, almost three-quarters (72%) said they had experienced or witnessed online bullying.