As children head back to school our research reveals that the first year of secondary school has become a pinch-point for online safety – as 11-year-olds face a “perfect storm” of digital pressure.
To address these issues we’re launching a new campaign to raise awareness and support parents in prioritising their children’s digital wellbeing.
Dealing with online pressures
Nearly seven out of 10 (68%) parents of Year 7 pupils are concerned their children are under pressure to have multiple social media apps and 71% are worried they will be pushed into sharing images or videos, according to according to our new research, which has launched a new set of guides to help parents.
An overwhelming majority of Year 7 parents (73%) said they were anxious about their child’s ability to manage online relationships, while three quarters (74%) feared they would be pressured into taking part in harmful online challenges and crazes.
Mobile phones in schools
The study also revealed 72% of children now own a mobile phone in their first year of secondary school. Eight out of 10 parents (80%) of Year 7 pupils said they were concerned about cyberbullying and seven out of 10 (68%) worried their kids felt the strain of having the latest device.
Banning phones in schools
And as France introduces a blanket ban of phones in schools this week, 59% of UK parents agreed that phones shouldn’t be allowed inside school, although nearly half (49%) believed children should be allowed to carry them on the way to and from school.
Only one in 10 (9%) parents said phones should be permitted in lessons, one in 4 (27%) at break time and one in 3 parents (34%) over lunch time.
Back to school safety guides for parents
To help parents tackle to these issues we’ve produced a series of videos and online guides featuring leading experts in children’s digital safety as well as teachers including Matthew Burton of hit Channel 4 docu-series Educating Yorkshire.
BAFTA-nominated Mr Burton – the newly appointed head teacher at Thornhill Academy – called on parents and schools to work together.
He said: “When children start secondary school, it can be a perfect storm for online pressures; it can arrive at a time when children are embracing new technologies, they are trying to maintain old friendships while also trying to settle in and establish new friendships in a new school.
“It’s absolutely vital that parents and schools work together to give children the right levels of support so that they’re safe online – especially during this hugely important transition period from primary to secondary school.”
Mr Burton shares online safety concerns
The teacher– who rose to fame in 2013 for helping his pupil Musharaf overcome a stammer added: “At Thornhill, we are very proud of the way our students conduct themselves and we don’t allow phones in the classroom. However, where incidents do happen, more often than not, they can be traced back to the internet.
“Often the first time children will see each other ‘in real life’ after inappropriate things have been said or shared online – is when they return to school after the holidays.
“Parents are often shocked that their children are involved in this sort of activity which is why it’s so important they are aware of the issues. In these instances, working with schools to take proactive action to protect children from those risks – whether that is sexting, cyberbullying or taking part in harmful games online – is really important.
Dr Linda Papadopoulos, psychologist and Internet Matters ambassador, said: “Children who are starting secondary school are going from being a big fish in a little pond to a little fish in a big pond and they are suddenly having to find their way.
“On top of that, they have all these new communication tools and kids are starting to interact online – which can be very different from the face to face interactions they’re used to.
“Unless parents take the time to outline the differences of communicating online and offline and prepare them for how things can be misconstrued online – they run the risk of feeling isolated or even bullied.
“The online world offers such fantastic opportunities for kids and both parents and teachers are vital in ensuring they’re making the most of it and we hope these guides can help parents feel more comfortable about their child’s digital world.”
Carolyn Bunting, CEO of Internet Matters, said: “Our research finds that 72% of children in Year 7 have a smartphone and suddenly they’ll have the world at their fingertips.
“Giving a child a smartphone can give parents peace of mind and it offers children fantastic opportunities to learn, communicate and explore but if children aren’t prepared – they can face many digital challenges including managing friendship groups, the pressure to have social media or even pressure to play certain games.
“Parents have a major role to play in equipping their children with the right tools to navigate their online world – especially during this pivotal moment when they’re facing a raft of change.”