July 11, 2012

Online Safety Tools Not Providing Enough Protection For Kids

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Just 13% of children who find something upsetting on the Internet will report the problem through an online reporting mechanism, according to a new study by the EU Kids Online project at the London School of Economics.

“Existing reporting tools do not work,” wrote the authors of the study, who say children need simpler and more accessible tools to report their concerns.

“Given the relatively low take-up of online reporting mechanisms, there is considerable scope for further promoting their availability, age-appropriateness and use," said Professor Sonia Livingstone, director of the EU Kids Online project.

The report revealed that one in five children have seen potentially dangerous Internet content, such as websites promoting anorexia and suicide techniques. Nearly 20% of children reported encountering upsetting sexual messages online, although just 15% reported these events.

14% of children aged 9-16 said they had seen sexual images online, while 2% said they had seen violent sexual images.

Nearly one-out-of-three children who reported upsetting content online said they did not find the response helpful.

The study also found that parents are more worried about their children´s online risks than those from alcohol, sex or drugs.

The parents´ top five concerns were school achievement, road accidents, bullying (on or offline) and crime. Among the online risks parents most often worried about were having their children contacted by strangers or viewing inappropriate content.

The European Union is considering a response to the problem. One possible approach would require Internet users to actively opt-in before they could access pornographic or potentially harmful online content.

Last month, European officials began considering an “active choice” system that would allow Internet users to block offensive material when they signed-up for new broadband service.