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The Internet Is One Of Our Greatest Inventions, But We Must Protect Our Children And Young People From Online Risks

06/02/2017 16:04
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The internet is one of our greatest inventions - a powerful tool that children and young people can use to learn, to express themselves and explore the world around them.

However, protecting them from the risks they might face online or on their phones is vital. You wouldn't let your child go off to meet a stranger or put themselves in a risky situation - and the same rules apply to the online world. Some children are visiting adult chatrooms, viewing inappropriate content and in some cases being bullied by peers or even - in extreme situations - radicalised, and we need to protect them from these risks.

Today is Safer Internet Day, and as Minister for Vulnerable Children and Families, I'm proud to support this initiative to raise awareness of the online risks faced by children. This year it's great to see that around one thousand schools and colleges have joined the official supporters list for Safer Internet Day, and as a result many pupils and parents across the country will feel more confident about what to do if they are worried about something that is happening online.

However it doesn't stop at awareness raising. As a Government we are committed to doing all we can to ensure schools reinforce the messages from Safer Internet Day, and teach children how to stay safe online. That's why the new computing curriculum includes internet safety at each key stage, developed with input from e-safety experts including Childnet, the NSPCC and the UK Safer Internet Centre.

By law every school is also required to have measures in place to prevent all forms of bullying - and this includes cyber-bullying too. No child should have to face this alone, and we have all seen the irredeemable impact bullying can have on a child's life. Teachers and parents may be specially placed to spot the signs of bullying, but everyone in a child's life has a role to look out for them too. Spare some time to speak to the child you're worried about, and the impact of your time could change their life.

As parents, carers or teachers we may sometimes feel powerless to keep track of where children are going online and what they're doing. But feeling empowered to speak honestly and openly about using the internet with those in our care, as well as understanding the risks, can help give us the confidence to address this issue. There's a wealth of guidance available to support you - including The UK Council for Child Internet Safety's recently published guide for parents and carers whose children are using use social media. I encourage you to have a look at this.

It's vital to get this right. Everyone has got a role to play, so get behind Safer Internet day today and let's work together to keep children safe online.

Edward Timpson is the minister for vulnerable children and families, and the Conservative MP for Crewe and Nantwich

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