Youngsters want more internet protection, says new report
Children living away from home, or using social care services, want to feel safer online, be protected from unsuitable sites and have adult supervision, highlights a new report published today by the Children’s Rights Director for England, Dr Roger Morgan.
The report, ‘Future care: Children’s advice on future care standards’, follows consultation with 686 children and young people - aged between four and 20 - who attended the 2008 national children’s conference. These youngsters discussed the key issues that they would like to see considered for future inclusion in the National Minimum Standards.
“One of these is the need for all children to know about how to stay safe on the internet,” explains Dr Roger Morgan.
“The message here is simple, children are taking their internet safety seriously, but many clearly don’t feel confident that they can protect themselves on their own. They want adults to take a greater role in overseeing their web use and to be told exactly what is safe, so that they are better prepared to steer clear of unsuitable sites. Indeed many children suggested unsafe sites should be blocked completely so they cannot access them.”
“This report illustrates just how important it is for young people to use the web with the assurance that they will not be left vulnerable to danger. Moreover, these concerns have been highlighted in previous discussions and continue to be a key issue for the youngsters we spoke to this time round”.
The National Minimum Standards are not enforceable by law but are important guidelines to help providers, inspectors, and people who use services to judge the standard of service. They are designed to make sure everyone understands what’s expected and so services can be measured against the same standards.
Two of the most significant findings to come from the children surveyed are that the new Standards should be written for everyone to use – not just individuals running and setting up services or those inspecting them. Children proposed that the rules should be for themselves, as well as their parents, in addition to staff, carers, trainers, and managers.
Second, children want a full set of rules for how they are looked after, and do not want any of the rules left out. Notably, the younger the children were, the more they thought the rules should be used. Children rated having their own privacy, being kept safe and health, and staying in touch with their families as the most important of the possible 40 rules that the majority of children (95%) would like to see included in the new Standards.
Children were particularly keen that the Standards address specific concerns about internet safety. Nearly two thirds of those consulted (61%), asked that porn and chat rooms be blocked or filtered; almost half (45%) asked that young people be supervised how they use the internet and (24%) said that children should be taught the basics about online safety.
Some of the proposals children gave to better safeguard them online included having ‘child locks’, or ‘no webcam’. Another group said that young people ‘shouldn’t be able to put pictures up of yourself’’. Other children advised it was important to put the computer in a place where adults know they are using it or for adults to sit with young people so they can see what it is they are viewing. Notably, those in children’s homes were more likely to say that they should only be able to get onto safe and age-appropriate websites.
Roger Morgan concludes:
“The standards are such an important process and our consultation with children is pivotal as their advice will feed directly into and shape the decisions on future rules around their care.”
Notes for Editors
- The report, Future care: Children’s advice on future care standards’ is published on the Ofsted website, www.ofsted.gov.uk and the Office of the Children’s Rights Director website www.rights4me.org
- The children that took part were from different settings and social care services including children’s homes, foster care, boarding schools, residential special schools and residential family centres.
- The National Minimum Standards were first written in 2001 and are set by the Secretary of State.
- The Children’s Rights Director for England, Dr Roger Morgan, has personal statutory duties to ascertain the views of children in care, children living away from home, and children receiving social care services, to advise Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector on children’s rights and welfare, and to raise any rights or welfare issue he considers significant. His post is hosted by Ofsted.