YOUNG people are facing an internet safety ‘time bomb’ campaigners have warned - as new research shows almost half of teenagers in the North-East and North Yorkshire are not getting proper lessons about how to stay safe online.
Children as young as nine are being exposed to online pornography, cyberbullying and an increasing risk from online predators who force youngsters to send sexual images of themselves to others.
The NSPCC described abuse through mobile phones and the internet as one of the major issues facing young people today and called for children to receive lessons in online safety at the age of five.
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On the tenth Safer Internet Day, charities and online organisations urged parents and schools to do more to educate youngsters and monitor their internet activity.
In the North-East, figures show that 40 per cent of young people aged between nine and 16 have received no formal internet safety training at school.
In North Yorkshire that figure rises to 46 per cent of youngsters.
Internet security company Eset, which carried out the research, said many parents are too nervous to raise the issue of online safety, with up to 80 per cent of parents preferring to monitor their child’s internet use from a distance, not realising that a large number of youngsters hide much of their online activity.
Students at Darlington College were today (Tuesday, January 5) given a lesson in online safety by PCSO Jude Hills, who offered advice on using privacy settings on social networks to keep strangers at bay.
The college has made internet safety a priority following the death of student Ashleigh Hall in 2009 who was murdered by convicted sex offender Peter Chapman after he used Facebook to pose as a younger man to trick the 17-year-old into meeting him.
The college now hands out a copy of Ashleigh’s Rules, an internet safety guide written by her friends, to every new student.
College principal Tim Grant said: “It’s very important that young people learn to use the internet safely and without putting themselves in a dangerous situation. “We always provide a lot of information to students about the pros and cons of the internet and their response and attitude towards learning more has been very positive.”