Internet Safety Day – Children Should Be Safe Online

Today is Internet Safety Day and children and young people are calling for the right to feel safe online. 

Junior NI Minister Jonathan Bell MLA has visited a number of local schools to discuss the results of a recent survey into internet safety. Following these visits, 

Junior Minister Jennifer McCann MLA raised the survey findings and the importance of the issue in the Assembly during a debate.

   [caption id="attachment_36151" align="alignleft" width="350"]Schools across Northern Ireland have participated in Internet Safety Day Schools across Northern Ireland have participated in Internet Safety Day[/caption] The ‘Have Your Say’ research, commissioned by the UK Safer Internet Centre to mark the Tenth Anniversary of Safer Internet Day, asked primary and secondary school children what they enjoy most about the internet, as well as any aspects of being online that concern them.

 As a result of this large schools survey about internet safety, 24,000 school children have set out their vision for how to make the internet a safer and more enjoyable place. 

Junior NI Minister Jonathan Bell MLA said: “Ten years after its introduction ‘Safer Internet Day’ is now marked by 90 countries around the world. This is a measure of the importance and the seriousness with which everyone should approach internet use. “This year’s theme: ‘Online Rights and Responsibilities’ reflects a growing concern in many parts of the globe about what the growth of electronic communication and social networking is actually doing to civic society. Each of us already know that the Internet is a vast information and entertainment resource – some of it good and some of it downright nasty. What we have been less aware of, until now, is its potential in the wrong hands to harm lives.”
 This year’s theme is online rights and responsibilities and encourages users to connect with respect. The findings offer a valuable insight for how government, educators, families and the internet industry can work towards a safer internet future.

The key findings from the research were:

 * Primary and Secondary Children call for the right to feel safe.
 * People being unkind is the main thing that’s stops people enjoying their time on the internet.
 * 34% of young people have come into contact with content that upsets or worries them online.

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Rogers Pushes For Internet Safety

SDLP Education spokesperson and South Down MLA Sean Rogers has called for all government departments to adopt a joint up approach to tackle the issues around internet safety.

Mr Rogers was speaking following an Assembly debate on Internet Safety for Children. He said:

One of the major child protection issues facing us today is the abuse encountered by young people via the internet and on their mobile phones.

 “Childline had 4,000 counselling sessions last year that focused on callers aged 12-15years old.  It is deeply worrying that these children are encountering bullying which affects their self-esteem. It is fair to say that the internet compounds at times those feelings of worthlessness.

I urge the First and Deputy First Minister to bring forward a cross departmental Internet Safety Strategy to help children enjoy the wonderful resource of the internet in a safe and secure manner.

Most schools are already providing information on the pitfalls of the internet and the dangers young people can be exposed to. This is a topic that can no longer be left to chance, neither in the home or indeed school.

The internet and mobile phones are now part and parcel of our society and in particular of youth culture.   As the NSPCC have said we cannot put the genie back in the bottle on this one.

Young people are experiencing all sorts of new forms of abuse in a scale never experienced before.  It is vital they know the risks and therefore it is imperative that parents, schools, technology companies and social media websites play their part.”

* * *

Clarke says Internet Users Should Feel Safe

Down District Councillor and Alliance Party South Down spokesperson Patrick Clarke said that the internet has many positive aspects but we shouldn’t allow it to be a place where its users face abuse or other dangers. Councillor Clarke was making his comments regarding internet safety for children and young people.

He added: ”There is no doubt that the internet and social media have many positive aspects. They have totally changed how we communicate, share information and express ourselves. But they have a dark side.

“A platform has been created on which abusive and threatening views can be easily voiced against individuals and groups. And we have seen what this can lead to. We have all heard stories about people taking their own lives after sickening, horrible messages are left on their social media pages.

“It can be a platform for hate speech, motivated by prejudice based on ethnic origin, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation or disability, and it often has a social undertone. Messages of this type are designed to tell groups or individuals that they are not welcome in communities and, with the organisational capabilities of social media, can be used to incite violence.

“Equally, it can be used in a positive way to stamp out racism and other prejudice, for example, as part of the campaign to combat racism amongst football supporters.

“Online sex offenders also use gaming sites, social media and chat-rooms to contact victims, particularly young people. This often starts with psychological manipulation to gain the person’s trust, which is why we must make sure that every child and also every adult is aware of the dangers associated with the internet.

“Indeed, the fight against online sexual predators must be led by parents and teachers in the form of guidance and education at home and in our schools, as well as by law enforcement.