The online world offers a wealth of resources for education, entertainment, and connection with other people. As the use of the internet has increased exponentially during the pandemic, it is important to ensure that everyone, including children, teenagers, and vulnerable adults remain as safe as possible through managing all of the risks the internet poses.
What is ‘Online Safety’?
Online safety refers to the act of staying safe online. It is also known as internet safety, e-safety and cyber safety. It encompasses all technological devices which have access to the internet from PCs and laptops to smartphones and tablets and even to televisions and smart speakers.
Being safe online means individuals are protecting themselves and others from online harms and risks which may jeopardise their personal information, lead to unsafe communications or even affect their mental health and wellbeing.
Why does online abuse happen?
Abuse occurs because the abuser wants to exercise control over their victim and demonstrates some or all of the following traits:
- extreme jealousy
- uncontrolled and unmanaged rage
- cruelty to animals
- verbal abuse
- extremely controlling or coercive behaviour
- antiquated beliefs about roles of women and men in relationships.
How prevalent is online abuse?
The growth in the use of the internet, and specifically the use of social media platforms, has increased exponentially since 2006. During the Corona Virus pandemic, the use of the internet has more than doubled since 2019.
According to the Office of National Statistics states around one in five children aged 10 to 15 years in England and Wales (19%) experienced at least one type of online bullying behaviour in the year ending March 2020, this is equivalent to 764,000 children.
Further information about the prevalence of online bullying is on page 2.
What are the potential risks of online abuse?
Unfortunately, online abuse can cause mental health problems, including depression, low self-esteem, a feeling of worthlessness and could potentially lead to suicide.
The online risks can be classified under the 3C’s headings
- Content this means how children and adults could be exposed to illegal, inappropriate or harmful material on the internet.
- Contact is about children are adults are subjected to harmful online interaction with other users.
- Conduct is all about how one’s own personal online behaviour could increases the likelihood of, or causes, harm to others.
How can risks can be managed?
It is very important that all people build their digital resilience. Within schools and work environments, there are safeguards in place such as policies and procedures to prevent anyone from coming across inappropriate content including the fire wall which prevents access to inappropriate sites.
Therefore, everyone is more at risk within the home environment with parents and carers playing a pivotal role if they are to protect their children online. This can be very challenging for parents and carers especially as advancements in technology are developing so quickly.
What are Soroptimists doing?
In addition to educating ourselves about Online safety, Soroptimists have been raising awareness of Social Media platforms with students at Freshers’ Fairs. More recently they have been writing to Police and Crime Commissioners and local Police Forces about the importance of raising awareness of the less well known APPs young people are using in today’s digital world.
For more information:
The NSPCC, Childline and Thinkuknow websites provide excellent advice for parents. In addition, the NetAware App reviews popular sites, apps and games and details the minimum age for games or social media apps, highlights ‘what children say’ and ‘what parents say’ about the different aspects. It also suggests whether it is high, medium or a low risk app or game.
Net Aware www.net-aware.org.uk