THE BLOG

Safeguarding Generation XXX

10/06/2013 12:12 BST | Updated 07/08/2013 10:12 BST

For anyone who grew up during the 70s and 80s, the continued digital revolution is staggering to behold. Each new development brings us more wonderful experiences, with amazing freedom, at a hitherto unimaginable speed. But for the next generation, my 12 year old daughter included, nothing has changed.

Home computers or laptops are the norm and black boards at school are now white, touchscreen and fully interactive. Increasingly this generation also has access to numerous internet enabled devices. In my daughter's case, it's an iTouch that she got when she was ten, which (shockingly) I didn't actually realize gave her internet access for the first year she had it. We've come a long way from the Bush tape cassette player I got when I was ten!

For her the digital revolution we are so focused on isn't actually happening, it's just part of everyday life. And this is something that the advertising industry needs to keep front of mind.

Day-in, day out, I advise multinational clients on smarter, more engaging ways to talk to consumers of all ages, across all channels, increasingly online. But I'm concerned we ignore the new behaviours we're encouraging in our kids.

Digital Isolation

I'm sure I'm not the only parent who has worried about the effect all this connectivity is having on our children. Yes they're more 'connected', but it seems to be in a more isolated way. Indeed, by its very nature it's an individual pursuit.

Yes the internet brings kids great things like education, entertainment and relaxation...but how much real interaction with the world are they missing? How will this affect their development compared to ours? I guess at this stage, no one really knows...but hey, fingers crossed.

Teachers and other professionals that work with children are already starting to notice a definite trend amongst this generation to underperform. I personally find this worrying, especially as a father.

Generation XXX

An additional issue of this increased connectivity is that children are being exposed to unprecedented amounts of content from the darker side of the internet, from a worryingly young age. Some suggest that children as young as six are now regularly exposed to online pornography. And experts are noting that it's normalising the extreme sexual behaviour often portrayed, giving young children a false and distorted perspective on something that should come naturally.

There are already many reports into this disturbing effect from several respected bodies. However it something that seems to be going unchecked, with government and the ISP's seemingly uninterested or wringing their hands and pointing at each other.

With the proliferation of online pornography it's no surprise that this stuff is just so easy to stumble across, even when searching for seemingly innocent subjects.

So what can we, as parents, do about this? Sure there are control settings on our computers, but they can be complex and actually, quite easy to get around if you're a tech savvy kid...and let's face it...they all are these days.

Safeguarding our future

Well, here's a tip. Technology may be exposing our kids to danger but it can also prevent/minimise this exposure. For example, there's a unique new App on iTunes, called Cif the Web, which sits on your iPad and with one simple tap sets up a whole host of parental controls, instantly blocking around 4.5million adult sites. It's even got a clever bit of software that cleans up filthy language on other sites too. It's pretty effective; I know because I use it at home on the family iPad. I also know it works because we've developed it here for one of our clients.

Now, I know I'm an ad man but I promise you I'm not selling; the App is free after all. What I am trying to do is highlight one of the most useful of the apps out there so that those who, like me, are concerned about what our young kids might come across in their online wanderings can take action.

Politicians, charities and trade associations are all calling out to invest in safeguarding our future. This doesn't just mean our economy. It also means our kids. Until more regulation comes into force preventing kids from accessing explicit content, we need to take action ourselves. Downloading an app is the least we can do for them.