GLASGOW parents are more prone to worrying about the online content their child has access to than any other city in Scotland, a recent survey has revealed.
By Shaunna Whitters
WESTCOASTCLOUD, an internet security company, conducted the survey for UK Safer Internet Day in which figures revealed that 74% of parents in Glasgow were most worried about the explicit sexual content their child could view online – a percentage higher than any other city in Scotland.
The survey also revealed that whilst half of parents had installed software to protect their child from accessing unsuitable content on the home computers or laptops, only one in four had done so in mobile phones or gaming consoles. Despite this, one in five parents admitted to worrying about something that had happened to their child whilst they were using the computer at home.
Research was taken over six cities in Scotland: Glasgow, Dundee, Edinburgh, Inverness, Aberdeen and Stirling. It targeted parents with children between the ages of five and 16 to determine their attitude towards internet safety and the online protection of their children. Sam Mitchell, 36, from Glasgow, found out firsthand the repercussions of not having parental controls on her home computer. Her oldest son, Craig, who is now 12, found himself looking at a number of explicit images at a young age. Sam admits that she had never watched what he had been viewing and feared the possibilities of what he saw could have been worse.
She said: “My husband, Gary, and myself don’t have a great computer-based knowledge, it’s very basic. We never imagined we’d have to worry about what the kids were looking at on the internet, after all they were only looking at websites for kids, and we didn’t think there would be links to anything explicit.
“But when Craig was eight, he managed to click on to a website with a lot of pornography and videos of explicit things. We didn’t realise at first and then he started making inappropriate comments and asking strange questions, we just thought maybe someone has said something at school or at his football and dealt with it there. It was a few days later when Gary was looking through the internet history that he saw an unusual website. That’s when it clicked what he had done.
“When we sat him down to talk about it,” Sam continued “he said that he had been playing one of his games online when a pop up to this website had came up and he had clicked on it. Thankfully, he didn’t understand anything, but if it was as easy as that for kids to access these images and videos, what else can they get their hands on?
“The internet isn’t as safe as people think it is. I learned that the hard way. We now have parental controls on all our gadgets and monitor exactly what the boys are looking at. We got off lucky because it doesn’t seem to have affected Craig but it could have been so much worse. You hear about paedophiles grooming children online and three years ago, I wouldn’t have thought that could happen to my kids but the internet is a big thing and it can be easy to access your kids without these protective controls. I’d plead with any parent to monitor what their kids are doing and viewing online, it is for their own good.”
Bill Strain, director of Westcoastcloud, explained how parents can protect their children: “There are many things parents can do to keep their children safe on the internet,” he said. “The first and most important thing you can do is talk to your children to make them aware that the internet can expose them to all sorts of wonderful things but also all sorts of unsuitable things and get them to understand the risks. Secondly, you can agree certain rules with them and third, you can install web security software which will filter and block inappropriate content or websites.”
“It’s also interesting that parents are continuing to worry about the explicit and sexual content their children can access online. It’s so easy for kids to stumble across age –inappropriate material even if they’re just flicking through the TV channels, so parents do need think about protecting across every internet-connected device in the home.”
Parents also admitted to being worried about paedophiles and cyber-bullying. 50% of parents revealed they were worried about online grooming from paedophiles whilst 47% said they were worried about cyber-bullying and 45% were concerned about the availability of graphic violence online.
David Wright from the UK Safer Internet Centre said: “While the internet is such an amazing resource, just like life it carries risk, not least for children with cyber bullying and adult content. Surveys like this demonstrate that online safety is a real issue for parents and that parenting in the 21st century is very different to that compared to the 20th century.”
Matt Forde, Head of NSPCC Scotland, said: “The internet is now an integral part of most children’s lives and can be a great resource for young people with huge educational opportunities. “But just like the real world, the internet has its own dangerous corners which can lead vulnerable young people into potentially risky situations. It is therefore vital that parents and children are clued-up about how to stay safe online. Children should be encouraged and supported to follow advice on internet safety at all times and to speak out if they see anything that makes them feel upset or uncomfortable.”