Survey On Kids' Internet Use Is A Wake-Up Call To Parents

14/08/2014 16:54 | Updated 22 May 2015

Boy deep in a computer game

A survey of children's internet use could leave some parents with alarm bells ringing, as one in five youngsters claim they have met up with someone 'in real life' who they had 'met' online.

The study found that half of the children who went off to meetings with 'online' friends said they went alone, and in cases where they did take someone with them, only half of their chaperones were their parents.

The survey took in some 162 children in 15 primary schools, all in the south-east or Guernsey, with most of the respondents being aged between nine and 11.

The Guardian reports that a 'significant minority' of the kids polled used their computers in their bedrooms into the small hours and were never supervised by their parents.

Many of the children claimed they were older than they really were when online, although the paper states there could be 'some bravado' in their responses, as 5 simply claimed be 13-15 to get around it, with a further 10 - said they were only allowed to use their social network accounts in the presence of their parents, with 67 said their parents never checked their internet usage.

The survey was implemented by Tim Wilson, an information security professional and school governor. He said he was concerned by the findings when he polled children from his own school, and extended the study to others as he promoted the Safe and Secure Online programme.

He said that parents should be bringing the family computer into the living room and having open conversations about potential online dangers with their children. This, he said will enable them to have a 'more active role in the relationships children are increasingly starting online'.

"Parents should ensure their child is comfortable enough to discuss seeing something they shouldn't online," he said, adding that for teachers and schools, the results of the poll pointed to an 'urgent need for more education on internet safety to pupils, staff, and parents'.

Parentdish editor Tamsin Kelly said: "You wouldn't allow your primary school children to try and cross a road with speeding traffic alone, so why on earth aren't parents guiding their children in the safe way to use the internet.

"Laptops, family computer, tablets should all be kept and used in the family space and children should be on sites specific to their age and should not enter details for sites without a parent checking it out and giving permission."

See our section on bullying, including cyber safety guidelines, in partnership with the charity Beatbullying.

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