Using the internet to chat with friends or play games online has become just as normal for many children as getting up to go to school. With millions of children browsing the web the questions I suspect many parents will ask themselves are: What does my child do when they go online? Are they browsing web sites I should be concerned about? Are they talking with strangers who could mean them harm?
I know, as a mum of two, I certainly worry about the digital world my sons are exploring without me by their side like I can be in the real world. We live in an age where any digitally inquisitive child who knows their way around a computer, tablet or mobile device, has the potential to access content that could be pornographic or violent. They could even be duped into sharing personal information with a random stranger off the back of a web chat.
These serious issues have rightly made children's online safety a top priority for parenting groups as well as teachers, law enforcement officials, child protection campaigners and internet service providers.
But what is missing from much of the debate between these groups are the views of children themselves, alongside more open dialogue between adults and children on these issues. Online safety should not purely be about adults debating and tackling these issues themselves or e-safety mechanisms filtering out adult content.
It needs to be about encouraging honest dialogue between children and adults on tricky e-safety issues. It needs to be about proactively engaging children and enabling them to feel empowered to bring any online safety concerns or questions they have to their parents and teachers.
Nurturing this kind of conversation is precisely what UNICEF UK and BT are striving to do via 'The Right Click: Internet Safety Matters', a new partnership reaching pupils and parents in 600 UK schools. We are working with BT to empower parents to help protect their children online, as well as helping young people learn how to stay safe on the internet.
It's very important that children, parents and teachers are given the opportunity to come together to openly discuss thorny e-safety issues. This way young people can make the most of the digital world that lies before them and everyone feels confident they are safe and secure when doing so.
'The Right Click: Internet Safety Matters' will deliver a series of interactive online safety workshops aimed at thousands of schoolchildren and their parents.
The partnership will be run as part of UNICEF UK's Rights Respecting Schools programme, which aims to promote and embed children's rights across all aspects of school life. Through our initial work with BT, we aim to provide 21,000 children and their parents with the support and insight they need to be safety conscious digital citizens, more aware of potential perils of the internet as well as its benefits.
Once teachers have been trained to deliver interactive workshops independently, we hope this number will rise to a total of 35,000 children and parents.
We live in a society where many UK children are likely to be more tech-savvy and engaged with the latest digital trends than their parents are, which can leave many fearful of what their children might discover in a world they have little understanding or awareness of.
However, by fostering open dialogue on e-safety, we hope to make the digital world a safe place of discovery for everyone.