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Hopes & Streams: what children and young people think about their online lives

 

Almost 40,000 pupils took part in this year's London Grid for Learning (LGfL) DigiSafe online safety survey. LGfL's Mark Bentley offers his views on the findings.

Have you ever wondered what young people really get up to online? What they love, hate or worry about? Or, whether they think parents and teachers know what they’re talking about when it comes to the internet?

Every couple of years, we run a pupil online safety survey to get a snapshot of UK children’s online behaviours and attitudes, to help inform education, policy and practice.

This year’s survey was the biggest yet. Almost 40,000 children and young people aged between 7 and 16 took part from schools across the UK, giving us insights into their online realities – the good, the bad and the ugly. What we found has been put into a report called ‘Hopes & Streams'.

We covered a wide range of topics, from online friendships, bullying and reporting, pornography, grooming and sexting, to hate speech and more.

 

The survey revealed that 2 in 5 had never told anyone about the worst thing that had happened to them online. But there was encouraging news to follow, especially for parents. Although only 56% said they spoke about online safety with a parent or carer more than once per year, nearly three quarters of those who did chose to talk to a parent before speaking to a friend, teacher or a helpline.

One of the standout statistics of the report is that 73% of all pupils said that their parents understood online safety. This is reassuring for parents and shows that you don’t need to know the latest game or app inside out – it’s all about behaviour.

But what were some of these bad experiences that young people mentioned? There were lots of comments about the distress caused by coming across violent and sexual videos circulating online.

Child sexual exploitation via video chat and live streaming was also a major theme. Nearly 1 in in 10 young people who video chat with people they haven’t met in person have been asked to change or take off clothes; more than 1 in 20 live streamers told us that they had been asked to change or get undressed on screen. This is particularly worrying for younger children who may get tricked into changing on camera. This is what prompted our ‘undressed’ campaign.

Thankfully it’s not all doom and gloom, with the report revealing many positives. The overwhelming message was that the internet can be a force for good, not just to balance out the negatives of the online world, but by supporting each other, learning new skills, broadening horizons and building strong relationships.

This is a key message for adults to take on board when talking to young people who may want parents and teachers to acknowledge the great times that young people are having online.

So, what next? The report is full of recommendations for schools, government and industry. But for parents, the best advice is quite simple: don’t panic but speak more about staying safe online. Life experience and knowledge of human behaviour are what count, not knowledge of the latest app, site or game.

You can read the full report here.

Mark Bentley is the London Grid for Learning's online safety and safeguarding manager.