Europe, May 6, 2013: According to the EU Kids Online pan-European survey, 60% of 9-16 year old users go online every day or almost every day. Children do diverse and potentially beneficial things online: 9-16 year olds use the internet mainly for school work (85%), playing games (83%), watching video clips (76%) and instant messaging (62%). On average, 59% of 9-16 year olds have a social networking profile, a proportion that increases with the age of the child. Among social network users, 26% have public profiles. Although internet use presents significant risks to young users, and likelihood of exposure to these risks increases with age and frequency of Internet use, not all risk translates into actual harm to the user. Neither are children entirely defenceless against online risks. According to the survey, most 11-16 year olds can block messages from unwelcome contacts (64%) or find safety advice online (64%). Half can change privacy settings (56%), compare websites to judge quality (56%) and block spam (51%). While 14% of the children reported having seen explicit sexual content online in the past year and 13% received ‘sexts’, only 2% said they were upset by exposure. This raises questions about the desensitisation of children who are frequently exposed to inappropriate content. On the other hand, although most bullying seems to take place offline, and only 6% of the surveyed children had received hurtful messages, they often reported feeling upset about them. The EU Kids Online survey found that more than half of parents are unaware of their children being exposed to harmful content or engaging in sexting or offline meetings with online acquaintances. Although most parents think that it is important to talk to their kids about online activities and try to engage with them, few of them are familiar with risk-reducing tools such as filters. Most children consider their school to be the most important interlocutor regarding safe use of the internet.
UK, May 10, 2013: A mobile phone for four-year-olds has been launched. The 1stFone — the size of a credit card — costs £55 and is available on a contract or pay as you go. The phone does not allow access to text messaging or the internet, but has dedicated buttons to call mum, dad, home or other specified number. Thomas Sunderland, founder and inventor of OwnFone said: “Parents can stay in touch with their child even if they are as young as four without putting them at risk from sexting, text bullying, stumbling across inappropriate images on the internet or even being mugged for their smartphone.
Canada, May 10, 2013: As the few MPs remaining in Ottawa count down the hours until the House breaks for the final constituency week before the summer recess, the Prime Minster of Canada heads to Winnipeg, where, alongside Public Safety Minister Vic Toews and local MP Joyce Bateman, he’s scheduled to take part in a roundtable on cyberbullying with the families of Amanda Todd and Rehtaeh Parsons, among others. Outside the precinct, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney is in Mississauga to unveil a new initiative to speed up family reunification, while Minister of State for Sport Bal Gosal attends the 2013 Canadian Paralympic Committee annual congress and awards ceremony.
Canada, May 10, 2013: The teenager with a makeshift light sabre, who shot to unwelcome internet fame in 2003, has finally spoken up about the nightmare of cyberbullying. Almost a billion viewers have seen the amateur footage of 14-year-old Ghyslain Raza, mucking around in a TV studio in his Quebec high school. In it, an earnest-looking Raza awkwardly wields a pretend light sabre, imitating a Jedi knight from Star Wars. The following year, one of his classmates posted the video on the internet without his knowledge, spawning a massive cyberbullying attack when the footage went viral. “What I saw was mean. It was violent. People were telling me to commit suicide,” the now-25-year-old tells Macleans. After a decade of silence, Raza has granted an interview to a French-Canadian journalist, describing “a very dark period” during which he lost his few friends and changed schools. “No matter how hard I tried to ignore people telling me to commit suicide, I couldn’t help but feel worthless, like my life wasn’t worth living,” he says. Raza has since graduated from McGill University with a law degree and says he was driven to speak out by the recent spate of high-profile cases of cyberbullying, some of which have pushed their victims to commit suicide. He says he hopes school authorities would assist him if the same situation were to happen today and urges other young victims to “overcome (their) shame” and seek help.
USA, May 11, 2013: It appears that Facebook is losing its groove. A recent survey of 5,200 teenagers in California found that while 33% called Facebook their “most important” social network in Spring 2012, by Spring of this year that number had fallen to just 25%.
USA, May 14, 2013: A new study out of the University of New Hampshire shows the recession has not increased violence against children, but rates of exposure are still high. From 2008 to 2011, the university’s Crimes against Children Research Center tracked more than 50 forms of violence, crime, bullying and child maltreatment, finding that levels for most forms of violence either stayed the same or declined. While the study did not show higher rates, violence is still prevalent. More than one in 10 girls ages 14 to 17 were sexually assaulted in 2011. One in 10 of children under the age of 18 were injured in a physical assault and one in eight were maltreated by a caretaker. Center Director David Finkelhor said in a public statement that their research showed just how much children are exposed to violence and maltreatment. “Almost three out of five children of all ages had a recent exposure to one of the victimizations included in the study,” he said. “Fifteen percent were exposed to six or more different kinds of victimizations in a single year.” Parents and children were interviewed by telephone in more than 4,500 homes across the country by Finkelhor, along with Heather Turner, Anne Shattuck, Sherry Hamby of the research center. The study pointed out that even exposure to less serious kinds of victimization, such as peer assault, can increase the risk of more serious victimizations, such as sexual assault. The researchers said prevention efforts often do not address all the issues children face and that their findings prove more “intensive efforts to comprehensively assess and monitor children’s exposure by physicians, educators and child protection workers,” are needed.
USA, May 14, 2013: Kids start watching porn from as early as the age of 6, and begin flirting on the internet from the age of 8, according to a survey of over 19,000 parents worldwide. What’s more, kids are accessing instant messaging and computer games at a much younger age than just a few years ago. At the extreme, 3.45% of kids covered in the analysis used instant messaging to chat with friends while 2% of computer game addicts were just 5 years old. The study results were released exclusively to USA Today blog CyberTruth by Bitdefender. The Bucharest-based antivirus vendor correlated results of an online survey of parents with data compiled from its parental control services, such as which sites parents choose to block, and which sites children access regularly. Almost a quarter of the kids accounted for in the study had at least one social network account at age 12, while 17% were social media users at 10. “Kids lie about their age to get access to something they want to explore, in this case a social network,” says Jo Webber, CEO of Virtual Piggy, a website that helps kids manage and spend money within a parent-controlled environment, “It’s no different than my generation lying about age to get cigarettes or into a bar.”
USA, May 14, 2013: The Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection (ASACP) has announced its attendance at the upcoming Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) Forum 2013 scheduled for May 15 at Google’s EMEA Headquarters in Dublin, Ireland. FOSI this year will explore the “Year of the Digital Citizen: Online Safety, Data Protection and Privacy,” bringing together a wide range of government, industry, law enforcement, and civil society stakeholders in order to discuss these critical issues and to exchange ideas, opinions, strategies and priorities. The event features presentations by Facebook’s Richard Allan and Google’s Sue Duke, plus a keynote address by UK MP Claire Perry, and input from business leaders such as Amazon, Microsoft and others.
Australia, May 14, 2013: Laws aimed at stopping predators from grooming children on the internet were introduced to the Australian State Parliament on this date. Independent MLC John Darley drafted a Bill which makes it an offence for an adult to lie about their age or identity to a child online and then meet with that child. That offence would attract a maximum penalty of five years in jail. Greater penalties of up to 10 years in jail would apply if the adult intended to commit a crime against the child. Mr Darley said the eventual penalty would vary in each case at the discretion of the courts. The legislation was sparked by the case of 15-year-old Carly Ryan, who was murdered in 2007, by Garry Francis Newman, 52, a man she met online and who pretended to be a 20 year old “emo guitarist” called Brandon Kane. Carly’s mother Sonya Ryan hoped the Bill would help police to prevent cyber crime.
UK, May 14, 2013: A record number of children have been safeguarded from sexual abusers in the past year, figures from the UK’s leading child protection agency reveal today. In 2012/2013, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre safeguarded and protected 790 children – an increase of 85 per cent on the previous year, and the highest yearly figure since the Centre launched in 2006. It now brings the total number of protected children to 2,255 in its seven-year history.
USA, May 14, 2013: The National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), a non-profit public-private partnership focused on helping all digital citizens stay safer and more secure online, today announced a new collaboration initiative with the LGBT Technology Partnership to encourage greater awareness about cybersecurity and safety issues for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. The LGBT Technology Partnership works to provide a centralized, national presence for the many LGBT organizations and groups that are impacted by telecommunications, cable and technology policies. The organization also serves as a strong unified voice ensuring that policy implementation at the local, state and federal levels address the unique needs of the LGBT community. While the NCSA has worked to educate all digital users about staying safe online for over a decade, the organization has increased its focus on more closely targeting specific populations with uniquely tailored awareness messages. This ongoing effort includes working with the LGBT Technology Partnership in creating an LGBT cyber education toolkit with fact sheets, tip sheets and posters. Both organizations will also hold a Twitter chat about LGBT cyber safety issues on June 13th in honour of Internet Safety Month and LGBT Pride Month.
Canada, May 14, 2013: The Canadian provincial government is investing $800,000 to hire new technical experts for the RCMP’s internet protection unit as a part of a series of measures to beef up child internet safety. Public Safety Minister Robert Trevors announced six new investigators and two new technical experts for the RCMP’s internet child exploitation (ICE) unit on Thursday. The new positions will double the existing staff of the unit that’s fighting one of the fastest growing crimes in the country.
USA, May 16, 2013: On this date the North Andover Police Department hosted an awards ceremony for the winners of their “Take 25” initiative poster contest. Students in local schools designed posters to remind kids of the dangers they face such as child abductions, sexual exploitations and internet safety. Take 25 is a preventive child safety campaign created by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) in honour of National Missing Children’s Day. Annually honoured on May 25th, this day serves as a reminder to the nation to make child safety a national priority.