Northamptonshire`s Police and Crime Commissioner says he`s concerned at the findings from a consultation with young people about their safety online.
Adam Simmonds has made the following statement;
“As Police and Crime Commissioner for Northamptonshire, the safety and protection of our children remains a top priority for my Office and for Northamptonshire Police. The internet continues to grow, the age of children using the internet is becoming increasingly younger, and the ways in which our children are using the internet continues to expand.
Earlier this year, I launched a county-wide consultation engaging with 13,000 children, young people and their parents across the county to better understand their experiences online and the risks they face. The findings of this exercise gave a very clear but worrying picture of the online environment our children and young people are growing up in.
The findings from our consultation that were particularly concerning included;
• 80% of young people do not think they are at risk online
• One quarter of children and young people aged between 11 and 15 and nearly half of 16 to 18 year olds have talked to people online that they have never met in person.
• One in four 11-15 year olds and 40% of 16-18 year olds have shared or posted an inappropriate photo or video to others they know in person
• Almost one in five children and young people have been bullied online and half of those report being affected by it; feeling upset, anxious, stressed, depressed leading to reduced self-confidence and increased risk of social isolation.
It was important to me that we continued work to develop a better picture about how children and young people are using the internet, and to come up with innovative ways in which we could better inform children and young people about how they can stay safe. Our consultation also found that a third of parents would like more help and advice about how they can protect their children online.
Last week, together with Northamptonshire Police and Northamptonshire County Council, I launched our Online Safety Awareness Week, during which we asked children and young people to report anything they have been exposed to online which they felt was inappropriate, for example photos and videos or language that has upset them, experiences of cyber bullying or being contacted by strangers.
Social media was used extensively throughout the week, using #followthemouse, to disseminate a series of informative and educational messages, targeted at parents and young people, around issues such as sexting, cyber-bullying and online grooming. We also published and handed out 15,000 leaflets across the county, providing advice and tips about staying safe online.
During the week, we received over 400 responses from children, young people and parents, providing us with a concerning idea about what they were experiencing online. Some of the most worrying responses included;
• ‘My daughter is frightened to go anywhere especially school. She is having nightmares and screaming in her sleep [because of]cyber gangs and bullying.’
• ‘People ask me how old I am, what my real name is and where I live on movie star planet.’ – aged 10.
• ‘I’ve been asked to send topless photos to my boyfriend.’ –aged 15
• ‘Once I saw a person with only shorts on. I felt uncomfortable and kind of put off.’ – aged 9
• ‘I’ve seen inappropriate photos that I didn’t want to see, this made me feel sick’ – aged 11
After reviewing these answers each day, we published responses that provided children, young people and particularly parents with clear advice about how to keep safe online. We also sent out advice via social media, using #followthemouse, and these were well received.
50 posts were added to the force’s Facebook page during the campaign period, containing advice, questions and links to our survey – inviting people to share their online experiences. In total the posts received 427,000 views. The top post received 25,500 views.
On Twitter, there was a campaign lead-up the weekend before, followed by much more intensive engagement during the Awareness Week. 15-20 posts were published each day. During this seven day period the force Twitter page received 670,000 ‘impressions’ (when the post appears on somebody’s Twitter feed).
On the Monday we launched the campaign, there were 139,887 impressions against an average rate of 50,000. The tweets were very well received and each one received up to 10,000 impressions alone.
After a successful Online Safety Awareness Week, we will continue to prioritise our commitment to protecting children. The Northamptonshire Police Cyber Crime Unit, set up in June 2014, has seen a continual increase in the number of cyber crime incidents being reported, and it is expected that levels will continue to increase this year.”