07/02/2012 01:21 GMT

Children's Internet Safety Put At Risk By Parents' Fear Of Technology, Survey Reveals

Children's safety is being put at risk because their parents are scared of technology, research has revealed.

A Mori poll, commissioned by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (Ceop) Centre showed that about 80% of children in the UK, aged between five and 15, are regular users of the internet.

But 61% of parents had failed to set adequate online controls or did not have filters in place to keep their children safe, according to findings from independent regulator Ofcom.

The Ceop centre has provided material encouraging parents to develop their skills in the online world, as it marks European Safer Internet Day 2012. The guidance gives practical advice on what children may be doing online, covers issues that are sometimes hard to discuss, and helps parents talk to their child about online worlds.

Peter Davies, chief executive of the centre and the senior police officer leading on child protection on the internet for the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), said: "Technology has transformed people's lives both collectively and individually.

"It has changed how we communicate and socialise and children and young people are at the forefront - the real internet pioneers. For them it provides immense opportunity and excitement.

"But too often we see examples of where the child is at risk because they make simple online mistakes - because they are lured in or push the boundaries too far and risk their personal safety.

"We all have a role to play and today I want to encourage parents to engage with their child to help avoid these risks.

"I want to help them explore the online world with their child, to talk to them about how they are using the internet and, above all, do what parents have always done - think about safety from a practical point of view.

"We have collaborated with leading figures in the world of child safety to bring basic practical advice that is quick and easy to follow.

"We cover issues that are often taboo and we open up what we know about the risks in order to help parents understand so that they in turn can feel more confident talking to their child."

The project is funded by Visa Europe and includes contributions from Professor Tanya Byron, Dr Linda Papadopoulos, social networking sites Facebook, Moshi Monsters and Club Penguin, and Reg Bailey, chief executive of the Mothers' Union, who has undertaken research looking at the sexualisation of children.

Home office minister Lynne Featherstone said: "Protecting children is one of the government's most important responsibilities and Ceop does a fantastic job safeguarding children, both on and offline. I welcome this helpful guide as another way of allowing us to create a safer online environment.

"The internet is a great tool for young people and can open their eyes to lots of opportunities but it's important they understand the risks involved."

Gabby Hegerty, Microsoft Internet Explorer head in the UK, said: "The internet has become a central part of everyday life for adults and children, from learning and communicating to working and playing online.

"It is important we make the appropriate safety information available and build in features to our software which provide families with peace of mind online."

All the information can be found at ThinkUKnow, including an online show called The Parents' And Carers' Guide To The Internet, which looks at internet safety from a parental point of view.

John Grounds, the NSPCC's director of child protection consultancy, said: "The internet is a brilliant place for children and young people to socialise and learn about the world, but it's vital they have the skills they need to stay safe.

"The digital industry can play an important part of this work but the responsibility does not lie with them alone.

"Schools, parents and other adults working or volunteering with children can all take opportunities to talk to children about online safety.

"We offer free online safety advice for parents, provide safeguarding training for teachers, and we can give support and advice to children directly through"