Wales can do more to protect children online

Our country won't have a comprehensive approach until it prioritises the internet, says Head of NSPCC Cymru/Wales Des Mannion

Girls looking at laptopWales must do more to keep children safe online. That's why we're asking all Welsh Assembly candidates to join our fight for safer childhoods in the 2016 elections.

Prioritising online safety would ensure we have a comprehensive approach to fighting for safer childhoods and lead the way on tackling cyberbullying, sexting and online grooming in the UK.

We've set proposals with guidance from an independent expert digital advisory group including:

  • a comprehensive Online Safety Action Plan
  • the creation of an entirely independent Digital Advisory Group, contributing to the plan and liaising with ministers
  • collaboration with social media providers – opening a dialogue around improvements to the safety of Welsh children online
  • online safety lessons for children – incorporating resilience as a key element of personal and social education (PSE)
  • ensuring online safety becomes a key part of the National Safeguarding Board for Wales
  • ensuring adequate guidance for public service professionals on sexting and the law.

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One in five 8 to 11 year olds and seven in ten 12 to 15 year olds has a social media profile.

Explanation: Based on 1,379 in-home interviews with parents and children aged 5-15, conducted from April-June 2015.

3% of parents of children aged 5-7 who go online say their child has a social media profile.

This compares to:

  • nearly one quarter of children who go online aged 8-11 (23%)
  • and 3/4 who go online aged 12-15 (76%).

When calculated for all children (as opposed to just children who go online) this is the equivalent of:

  • 1 in 50 (2%) of 5-7 year olds
  • 1 in 5 (21%) of 8-11 year olds
  • and 7 in 10 (74%) of 12-15 year olds

who have a social media profile.

See also Indicator 9 in How safe are our children? 2016.

1 in 4 children have experienced something upsetting on a social networking site.

Explanation: 28% of children aged 11-16 (23% of children aged 11-12) who have a profile on a social networking site, had experienced something upsetting on it in the last year.

Based on a survey of 1,024 young people aged 11-16 across the UK who had a social networking profile.

Children experienced a wide range of upsetting things. The most common upsetting experience was ‘trolling’ (defined as ‘unkind comments or rumours circulated online’). However, a significant minority had received sexual messages, been encouraged to self-harm, or subjected to language which was violent or aggressive.

Dialogue between media providers would help to highlight issues for Welsh children and collaborate on solutions. A recent review of the national curriculum should also be used as an opportunity to ensure online safety is prioritised and made a key component of compulsory age-appropriate personal and social education.

Some progress is already taking place in Wales. The e-safety zone on the Welsh government's Hwb website offers advice and support for children and young people, parents, carers and teachers. And we welcome the roll-out of improved e-safety self-assessment and training for schools.

Head of NSPCC Cymru/Wales, Des Mannion, said:
"There's no doubt that Wales can do more to protect children online. Following the upcoming election ministers and AMs will have a clear opportunity to improve their approach, innovate and even lead the way on fighting this form of abuse.

"We want to Wales to have a presence on UK-wide forums and strengthened relationships with social media providers that lead to potential solutions. We want better education for children in dealing with the often severe pitfalls of the internet and the creation of a digital advisory group to assist and support the decision makers.

"The Social Services and Wellbeing Act brought a welcome focus on tackling abuse and neglect which we hope will deliver real progress – but there's more to do. Our country won't have a comprehensive approach until it prioritises the internet and puts a clear and cross-cutting plan in place to make sure our children are safe and free from harm in the digital world.

"On average, one in three internet users in Wales is a child and online abuse is an ever-evolving problem. We can fight it – and I hope every Assembly candidate backs our manifesto to fight for safer childhoods."

How we're helping children in Wales

Child protection in Wales

How the child protection system in Wales works from reporting, investigations and care proceedings including facts, statistics and case reviews.
How it works in Wales

Fighting for childhood in Wales

We’re working to strengthen the delivery of children’s rights and create safer childhoods for every child in Wales.
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