<EDIT: Further details have been published that suggest this ‘research’ was carried out by OnePoll. While the methodology of this organisation’s research is far from scientific, I think the campaign by ChildLine is still a great idea and I stand by my advice and links in this article.>
News today from the NSPCC’s ChildLine service reveals that in a poll of nearly 700 12-13 year-olds in the UK around one in five said they’d seen pornographic images that had shocked or upset them and 12% admitted to making or having been part of a sexually explicit video. Even more shockingly the study, commissioned to support the launch of the latest child safety campaign by ChildLine, revealed that nearly one in ten of the 12-13 year olds surveyed are worried they are addicted to porn. In the press release, Helen Beattie, ChildLine Service manager at the south east ChildLine base said:
Children of all ages today have easy access to a wide range of pornography and if we as a society shy away from talking about this issue, then we are failing the thousands of young people it is affecting. We know from the young people who contact ChildLine, that viewing porn is a part of every-day life, and our poll shows that one in five 12-13 year-olds think that watching porn is normal behaviour. However, even more worryingly, they also tell ChildLine that watching porn is making them feel depressed, giving them body image issues, making them feel pressured to engage in sexual acts they’re not ready for and some even feel they are addicted to porn. Recently, the government announced plans for children aged 11 upwards to be taught about rape and sexual consent as part of PSHE in schools. This would include discussion around what they have learnt from watching pornography. Our campaign clearly compliments this proposal. Across society, we need to remove the embarrassment and shame that exists around talking about porn – which is why we are launching this activity and helping young people to make more informed choices.
The ChildLine FAPZ campaign (the Fight Against Porn Zombies) will use a series of animations looking at the implications of over exposure to porn on both boys and girls. The animations then link to a range of information and advice, to help young people understand the implications associated with replicating pornographic content in real life situations and to protect them from putting themselves in potentially risky situations. The campaign is designed for young people, by young people, who have been at the heart of the creative development throughout.
I was invited to speak on BBC 3 Counties radio this morning to discuss the campaign and recommend ways parents can help monitor and restrict the content their children access online. There are some really good tools to help you do this and I’ve listed the links we spoke about this morning here. Let me be clear though (and I have written about this before on this blog) there is no silver bullet when it comes to technology. Just because you’re using the latest security software does not mean you can hand over responsibility for your children’s safety to it. I’m not a parent myself, but I am a highly experienced Aunty with nephews and nieces ranging from two to twenty-two, and I also believe that while monitoring browsing history and other digital communication using these tools is a good thing to do, I firmly believe you should make sure your child knows it is happening – this in itself could be a far greater deterrent to inappropriate behaviour online than anything I can link you to here right. Also, if you are more technologically challenged than your child you can use this to your advantage by asking them to teach you about the internet. Not only will you get a flavour of the kinds of things they like to do online, you also get to spend some quality time together watching YouTube videos of cats.
Resources for safety
Parental Control software
Most web browsers have made it simple to block access to certain websites but it’s still easy to get around parental controls if you know what you’re doing. Parental control software gives you that extra control
This is a great starting place for parents and carers, with dedicated sections explaining all of the connected technology their children might be using and how to set up parental controls on mainstream service providers such as BT, Sky, Talk Talk and Virgin Media. There are also sections for young people and educators, as well as a helpline and plenty of support if you think there might be a problem.
Free and relatively simple to set up K9 Web Protection lets you set up filters to either block or monitor all sorts of online activity. Setting up your own filter levels is quite time consuming but there are also out-of-the-box settings which protect against all default categories as well as social interaction and unrated sites. As well as the main category restrictions you can set up time limits to place blocks on when web access is allowed and impose an curfew for anyone using the internet. Sites can be blocked entirely by URL or keyword.
Keyloggers are invisible programs that record the activity on a keyboard so that a parent can see what has been typed. If you’re worried a child isn’t talking to you about problems online then this could be the answer. Many virus checkers and firewalls will pick up the installation as a Trojan virus, because they behave in the exact same way as a malicious key-logger used to mine personal data by criminals – but the ones recommended below are installed and controlled by YOU, not a hacker! Run in stealth mode and people using the computer will not even know it is there, though as I said I don’t believe this is the best use of these programs if the purpose is to protect and deter your teens from improper internet usage.
This is free and simple to use and lets you monitor everything from keystrokes and clipboard content to Skype chats and even media uploaded from an external drive like a USB. You can also monitor all web addresses visited and password protect the software so the log files cannot be altered. One really nice feature if you’re worried about inappropriate video calls is you can set it to capture a screenshot at certain intervals – I can think of no better way to put a teenager off getting undressed on webcam than this. You can use use it to see how much time your kids are actually spending doing their work and how much time is being spent online on social media sites and other unproductive pursuits.
Sometimes children might not feel like they can talk to a parent or teacher about concerns. Run by a UK charity, this site houses a community where children can get support and advice from other children, as well as trained professionals – whether they are experiencing problems online or out in the physical world. The young volunteers who make up the cybermentor fellowship have all been trained by the charity to be the first port of call for those who feel they can’t talk about problems with a grown up just yet.