Online video game graphics featuring severe violence and pornographic content, “…are so lifelike that the line between what’s real and virtual is very blurred for young children,” a primary school teacher has warned.
According to James Matthews, Safeguarding Lead at St Johns Schools, parents need to be aware of the increasing online risks to children despite the generational gap.
“Children, by their very nature, learn quickly. They have been born into an information age and, with the ease of use with mobile devices in particular, are quick to become engaged and immersed in this technology. There is a generation gap between the parents and their children where the children have become more tech savvy. We want to educate the parents as to the risks out there and how they can best protect their children,” he told Express.
He says that online gaming and apps, which may include graphic content, are the biggest threat, as they can be downloaded at the click of a button – often without parents’ knowledge or consent.
Pictured: Mobile and tablet apps can easily be downloaded so parents and carers might not always be aware of the content children are accessing.
“The level of violence and pornography associated with 18 rated games is just extreme. It goes far beyond the 'Tom & Jerry' level of violence that perhaps we grew up with as children.”
“Apps also present an issue as many involve connectivity to the internet and involved networking with others - strangers. Many of these apps, once downloaded, have a default setting of public which poses risks to children. And despite having the ability to make private, settings can easily revert once an app has updated. Parents need to be extremely vigilant.”
Mr Matthew’s comments come following an e-safety awareness talk held at the school last night as part of Safer Internet Day (SID) – a worldwide e-safety awareness initiative.
This year’s edition of SID saw the States of Jersey Police and ‘Prison! Me! No Way!!!’ deliver a series of primary and secondary school talks to promote safer and more responsible use of the internet during PSHE lessons, as well as events to support parents, carers and educators in their monitoring.
The talks are intended to compliment existing online safety lessons, which are now a legal requirement in the curriculum.
Lesley Harrison, Jersey Chairman of ‘Prison! Me! No Way!!!’, said that today’s children, “…make little distinction between life on and off.”
“Their use of online games, apps and services play a crucial role in the development of their identities, friendships, relationships, passions and aspirations. It is essential that we respond by offering them high quality online safety education that will enable them to make positive choices that will help keep them safe, and also enable them to recognise the consequences and relevant laws.”
A recent report from the UK Children’s Commissioner entitled ‘Growing Up Digital’ stated that 3-4 year olds spent over eight hours a week on the internet last year, while 12-15 year olds spent as many as 20.
Given that it might be difficult for parents and carers to keep a watchful eye on their children for such periods of time, the States of Jersey Police recommend maintaining, “…an open and honest dialogue with their children about their online lives, by supporting them with their personal development online and helping them to deal with any concerns or issues, seeking out positive opportunities to engage with their children online, and helping their children to find and use good quality digital resources.”
“They can help to respond to the negative by staying engaged with their child’s online activity (as appropriate to their age), by modelling positive online behaviours themselves, and by also reporting any inappropriate or illegal content they find.”
For more information on e-safety, click here.
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