A report published by Ofcom casts light on children’s online habits during the pandemic, including the challenges of home learning and the online harms they faced. The Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes Report 2020-21 looks as the experiences of 5-15 year olds as well as a separate section on pre-schoolers. This is part of a series of reports undertaken by the regulator since 2005 but, due to the pandemic, this year’s findings cannot be directly compared with previous years.
The report considered children’s access to devices for home-schooling and found that 2% of school-age children relied on smartphone-only internet access. 80% had constant access to an appropriate device for online home learning but 13% had access only some of the time; 2% rarely had access, and 2% never had access.
Unsurprisingly, the time children spent watching online content increased during 2020/21. Online gaming was popular amongst both boys and girls and 22% of those who played online games used in-game chat functions to talk to people they only knew through playing games. Bullying within games was a problem for many, particularly boys, and particularly in the 8-11 age group.
Although the minimum age for most social media sites is 13+, Ofcom found that 42% of 5 – 12 years old used social media and 30% of parents said they would allow under-age use. Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook were the most popular sites. 55% of 12-15 year-olds said they had had a negative online experience, the most common being contact from a stranger asking to be their friend. Most knew how to block someone in these circumstances and over half of them had done so.
The report considered the impact of media use on children who were vulnerable, due to a condition which limits or impacts their daily activities, and found they were more likely to have had a negative online experience, in particular, contact from a stranger wanting to be their friend and pressure to send photos or other information.
Action Fraud have issued a warning that as lockdown restrictions begin to ease, consumers need to be vigilant about the risk of frauds relating to travel and tickets to entertainment events. Any offers that appear to give access to “sold out” events or deals that looks “too good to be true” should be treated with great caution. There have also been instances of fraudulent sites charging for the new Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), which replaces the former EHIC and is in fact available free of charge. Other scam advertisements relate to fake ‘vaccine certificates’ despite the fact that no decision on this has yet been made by the government.
According to Which?, Fraud is “one of the most prevalent crimes in the UK”. The organisation has launched a free scam alert service, to inform the public of trends as they arise.
Although not necessarily fraudulent, consumers should also be aware of online advertisements for unofficial services charging for processing of government documents such as driving licence renewals and travel visas. These often charge inflated rates for services that are otherwise free or only a minimal cost. Despite breaking the rules of the platforms on which they appear, often they are not removed, or if so, they reappear.
CYBER SECURITY TRAINING FOR SCHOOLS
During the pandemic, when education institutions were adapting to remote learning, online admissions and testing, there was a spike in ransomware attacks on schools. According to the National Cyber Security Centre, ransomware has become one of the most frequent and disruptive types of incident that they deal with and there were over three times as many in 2020 than 2019. The Centre has now launched cyber security training for school staff to raise awareness and help them manage this rising threat. The training is free and includes real-life case studies as well as practical guidance on how to reduce the risk of cyber-attacks.
The latest iPhone operating system update 14.5 will introduce greater protections for users from cross-app tracking tools, which allow advertisers to track users’ activities from store to store. Once installed, users will be alerted to the tracking option and be asked if they wish to opt-in.
Gooseberry Planet offers two E-learning Continuing Professional Development courses – Safeguarding CPD (based on Keeping Children Safe in Education) and the Prevent Duty CPD. Click here for more details.