BBC Radio 4 – Today Programme Interviews Parentzone on Child Online Safety

Gooseberry Planet aims at teaching children online safety rather than spying on them and that’s exactly what experts are promoting.

BBC Radio 4 Today

Following publication of an NSPCC survey of police forces suggesting that at least 8 sexual offenses are committed every day (and the survey did not include all the biggest police forces)

Vicky Shotbolt of CEO of Parentzone who also sits on the Council for Internet Safety which advises the Government on child safety, was interviewed by the BBC Radio 4 Today to discuss the issue of children’s online safety. Below are some questions and answers transcribed from the interview. You may listen the recording of the interview here.

Asked: whether she thought the figures were a surprise:
Answered: “The figures are not a surprise, the figures are even on the low side, the reality is probably even worse”

Asked: What different types of crimes are being committed online?
Answered:  Crimes include:

  • Children being encouraged to share inappropriate images
  • Children being encouraged to meet offline with strangers, leading to quite serious crimes against children

Asked: how she recommends parents and grandparents to advise children on how to use the internet safely:
Answered: “It is a really tricky one, a lot of the focus tends to be on risk; we dont to say that children should not be allowed to take risk on line because that is healthy and is an important part of children understanding how to use the internet well

“The crucial thing is that children have to feel comfortable about coming forward when they feel they are in danger; and at the moment children feel very reluctant to report to parents or anyone else if they are being harmed online”

Asked: if simple messages such as the Road Safety messages work?
Answered: “I fear that is from another era…. and everybody asks could we not just do a Road Safety Campaign, but the truth is that the online world is as complex if not more complex than the offline world, and it is just not that easy to boil it down to a simple message

Asked: if awareness is the crucial message, if you want a child to be aware that a car coming fast is potentially a killer, a child knowing that everybody that you meet on the internet is not a friend is a potential risk and one should ask sensible questions, these are things you should teach them:
Answered: “Absolutely and it is really important that we do that children understand that the online world is a complicated place and you have to be very aware of the different people that might be on there and not all of whom are going to have your best interests at heart.

“And there are some skills, it is possible to teach children to block people they don’t feel safe talking to how they can report when they need to, and there are also some life skills we have to teach our children.

Asked: should parents spy on their children or block off access to certain sites:
Answered: “There is some really interesting research that we did with the University of Oxford Internet Institute that found that the more you block off, the more you filter, the more you co-use the internet with your children, the less safe they become…because children need to learn their own resilience, they need to learn how to navigate those spaces and privacy and open communications are really crucial…you can’t do it for them but you can teach them how they should do it.