I recently attended a workshop on internet safety in a London school with Unicef UK and BT. The workshops are being held in schools across the country and bring together children, parents and teachers to discuss how children can stay safe on the internet.
I met one mother who was horrified to learn that the games her nine-year-old son had been quietly playing in his room were not stored in his computer as she had thought, but he was actually playing them online. She suddenly discovered that she had no idea what type of games he was playing or who he was playing them with.
Later in the workshop a woman asked her 10-year-old granddaughter what worries her online - the first time they had ever had the conversation. Through their discussion the girl articulated her fears about strangers and came up with her own solution to make sure her content is only visible to friends. Her grandmother was shown how to help her do this.
Children have the right to access information and the internet can be a powerful tool, offering a whole world of knowledge and potential at their fingertips. However, children also have the right to be safe and sadly there are a number of growing risks facing children when they go online. Cyber bullying, stumbling across inappropriate content or sharing personal details or pictures online are all very real modern dangers.
The school workshops are part of The Right Click: Internet Safety Matters initiative, designed by Unicef UK and BT to help children and parents have an open discussion about internet safety and take practical steps to protect themselves online.
This week the partnership has reached a landmark 100 schools, with the 100th workshop being held at St John and St James' School in Hackney. That's 100 schools whose children, parents and teachers are now more empowered to help children stay safe online.
Visiting the schools, which are all part of Unicef UK's Rights Respecting Schools programme, I never cease to be impressed at how confident, articulate and informed children can be and how much this adds to the success of the workshops. I definitely wasn't this clued up when I was in primary school!
Children are increasingly using the internet to learn, play and socialise so it is essential that they are able to take advantage of it in a safe and informed way. And the workshops are just the beginning.
Unicef UK and BT are working with teachers to make sure the workshop content can be reinforced and shared widely to ensure even more children can enjoy the benefits of the internet safely.
To find out more about the 100th Workshop: http://www.unicef.org.uk/Media-centre/Press-releases/BT-and-Unicef-UK-hold-100th-workshop-on-internet-safety-for-children-parents-and-teachers/